President's speech

President's speech

President Barack Obama will tell the nation Tuesday night that he is pursuing a last-minute Russian proposal to remove chemical weapons from Syria, and will argue that military force may be necessary, a senior administration official told NBC News. Click on the video link below to watch live stream.
WASHINGTON, DC -- From MSNBC.COM.  President Barack Obama will tell the nation Tuesday night that he is pursuing a last-minute Russian proposal to remove chemical weapons from Syria, and will argue that military force may be necessary, a senior administration official told NBC News.

Hours before the president was to speak in prime time from the East Room, the official said that Obama had updated his remarks to reflect the developments of a furious day of international diplomacy.

The characterization by the senior official — using conditional language and saying that an attack may be required — appeared to represent a significant shift from the White House’s public statements on Syria last week.
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The administration has been arguing to Congress, the American public and the world that the United States should lead an attack to punish the Syrian government for using chemical weapons against rebels and civilians on Aug. 21 in its civil war.

But on Monday morning, the outlines of the crisis began to change by the hour.

Secretary of State John Kerry said, almost offhandedly and in response to a reporter’s question, that Syria could avert an American strike by putting his chemical weapons under international control.

But Kerry hastened to say that Assad "isn’t about to do it, and it can’t be done, obviously,” and a spokeswoman added later that the secretary was speaking rhetorically.

Within hours, the Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, had presented just such a plan to Syria, a Russian ally, as a way to end the crisis, and Syria suggested that it welcomed the idea.

Administration officials, joined by Hillary Rodham Clinton, the previous secretary of state, began to use more positive language — hesitant but open to the prospect of a diplomatic solution. And on Monday night, Obama told NBC News that the proposal was “a potentially positive development.”

China and Iran also endorsed the plan. China is critical to the process partly because it holds veto power on the United Nations Security Council. The United States has considered the U.N. a dead-end for approving a Syria strike because of opposition from China and Russia.

On Tuesday, Russia added a wrinkle of complication: President Vladimir Putin said that a proposal for Syria to hand over its weapons would not work unless the United States and its allies promise not to use force.

In his address, Obama will tell the nation that a military option must stay on the table, the senior administration official told NBC News. That appeared to be a response to Putin’s statement.

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