President Barack Obama strongly suggested Tuesday he’d consider military action against Syria if it can be confirmed that President Bashar Assad’s government used chemical weapons in the two-year-old civil war.
At a White House news conference, the president also defended the FBI in regard to its efforts before the deadly bombing at the Boston Marathon two weeks ago.
Asked about Syria, the president said that while there is evidence that chemical weapons were used inside the country, “we don’t know when they were used, how they were used. We don’t know who used them. We don’t have a chain of custody that establishes” exactly what happened.
If it can be established that the Syrian government used chemical weapons, he added, “we would have to rethink the range of options that are available to us.”
“Obviously there are options to me that are on the shelf right now that we have not deployed,” he said, noting that he had asked Pentagon planners last year for additional possibilities.
On another topic, Obama responded with slight ridicule and humor when he was asked if he still had the political juice to push his agenda through Congress after an early second-term defeat on gun control legislation.
“Golly, I might just as well pack up and go home,” he parried his questioner. Paraphrasing Mark Twain, he said, “Rumors of my demise may be a little exaggerated at this point.” And he expressed confidence that Congress would approve sweeping immigration legislation that he is seeking.
He also renewed his call for lawmakers to replace across-the-board federal spending cuts. The administration favors a comprehensive plan to reduce deficits through targeted spending cuts and higher taxes.
Asked about the FBI’s investigation into a possible terrorist threat posed in the past by Tamerlan Tsarnaev, a suspect in the Boston Marathon bombings who died in an escape attempt, the president said, “Based on what I’ve seen so far, the FBI performed its duties , the Department of Homeland Security did what it was supposed to be doing.”
“But this is hard stuff,” he said of the work needed to ferret out security threats at home.
He also said that “Russians have been very cooperative with us since the Boston bombing.”