WASHINGTON (AP) - President Barack Obama says he long resisted calls for military action in Syria because he didn't think force could solve the Syrian civil war. But he says he changed his mind after Syria's government gassed its own citizens.
Obama on Tuesday used a televised address to the nation to explain his thinking on the ongoing fighting in Syria. He said the use of chemical weapons on Aug. 21 shifted his thinking and that the United States must respond with a military strike to deter future use of such weapons.
Obama said no one disputes that chemical weapons were used and said thousands of Syrians have died from them. He said the images and videos of men, women and children are sickening and demand a response.
Obama has ordered the U.S. military to maintain its current posture to keep the pressure on Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime should diplomacy fail.
In his televised address Tuesday night, the president outlined his plans to respond to the use of chemical weapons in a Damascus suburb last month that the U.S. says killed more than 1,400 people. Obama says he's working closely with world leaders.
He says he's continuing discussions with Russian President Vladimir Putin, while dispatching Secretary of State John Kerry to meet with his Russian counterpart on Thursday. Obama also says he's speaking with leaders of France and Britain and will work with Russia and China to put forward a resolution at the United Nations Security Council requiring Assad to give up his chemical weapons.
(Editor's note: The White House has released the full transcript of the president's speech.)