On the heels of airstrikes that began last night in Syria, against ISIS and al Qaeda offshoot the Khorasan Group, President Obama delivered a shorter-than-expected statement on the South Lawn of the White House Tuesday morning. Obama spoke for about three minutes, hewing rather closely to the language and content of the Centcom press release on the airstrikes. He highlighted the Arab partner nations that participated in the airstrikes, which included Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates, and said he is “pleased” by the bipartisan support he’s received so far for the strikes.
Obama also addressed the eight airstrikes, conducted by U.S. forces alone, against the Khorasan Group in Aleppo, Syria. “We also took strikes to disrupt plotting against the U.S. and allies by seasoned Al Qaeda operatives in Syria who are known as the Khorasan Group,” Obama said. “It must be clear to anyone who would plot against America, and try to do Americans harm, that we would not tolerate safe havens for terrorists that threaten our people.”
The precision of the president’s language, calling Khorasan “seasoned Al Qaeda operatives,” for example, is a function of Congress’ failure, thus far, to show any interest in voting on direct military action in Syria, forcing the president to rely on the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force for authority to conduct the strikes.
Here’s video of the president’s statement, followed by a rush transcript:
Good morning, everybody. Last night, on my orders, America’s armed forces began strikes against ISIL targets in Syria, and today, the American people give thanks for the extraordinary services of our men and women in uniform, including the pilots that flew these missions with the courage and professionalism that we have come to expect from the finest military the world is ever known .
Earlier this month, I outlined our strategy to combat the threat posed by the terrorist group known as ISIL. I made clear that the united states would take action against targets in both Iraq and Syria, so these terrorists could not find safe haven anywhere. I also made clear america would act as part of a broad coalition and that is exactly what we have done.
We were joined by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Bahrain, and Qatar. America is proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with these nations on behalf of common security. The strength of the coalition makes it clear to the world that this is not America’s fight alone, and all of the governments of the middle east are rejecting ISIL, and standing up for the peace and security that the people of the region and the world deserve.
Meanwhile, we will move forward with our plans supported bipartisan majorities in congress to ramp up our efforts to train and equip the Syrian opposition, who are the best counterweight to ISIL and the Assad regime. 40 nations have pledged to help to take out terrorist targets, train and equip Iraqi and Syrian opposition fighters that are going up against ISIL on the ground, to cut off ISIL’s financing, to counter its hateful ideology, and to stop the flow of fighters into and out of the region.
We also took strikes to disrupt plotting against the u.s. and allies by seasoned al Qaeda operatives in Syria who are known as the Khorason Group. It must be clear to anyone who would plot against America and try to do Americans harm that we would not tolerate safe havens for terrorists that threaten our people. I’ve spoken to leaders in Congress, and I am pleased there is bipartisan support for the actions we are taking, America is always stronger when we stand united. That unity sends a powerful message to the world that we will do it is necessary to defend our country.
Over the next several of days i will have the opportunity to meet with the prime minister of Iraq, and friends and allies at the United Nations, to build support for the coalition confronting this serious threat to our peace and security. The overall effort will take time. There will be challenges ahead. We’re going to do what is necessary to take the fight to this terrorist group for the security of the country, the region, and the entire world.
Thanks. God bless our troops, and God bless America.
Update: The White House has released the President’s War Powers Letter regarding Syria, full text below (via email):
TEXT OF A LETTER FROM THE PRESIDENT
TO THE SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
AND THE PRESIDENT PRO TEMPORE OF THE SENATE
September 23, 2014
Dear Mr. Speaker: (Dear Mr. President:)
As I have repeatedly reported to the Congress, U.S. Armed Forces continue to conduct operations in a variety of locations against al-Qa’ida and associated forces. In furtherance of these U.S. counterterrorism efforts, on September 22, 2014, at my direction, U.S. military forces began a series of strikes in Syria against elements of al-Qa’ida known as the Khorasan Group. These strikes are necessary to defend the United States and our partners and allies against the threat posed by these elements.
I have directed these actions, which are in the national security and foreign policy interests of the United States, pursuant to my constitutional and statutory authority as Commander in Chief (including the authority to carry out Public Law 107-40) and as Chief Executive, as well as my constitutional and statutory authority to conduct the foreign relations of the United States. I am providing this report as part of my efforts to keep the Congress fully informed, consistent with the War Powers Resolution (Public Law 93-148).
I appreciate the support of the Congress in this action.