President Barack Obama said on Friday he has not ruled out any options in dealing with Syria as the United States investigates whether the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad used chemical weapons.
But the president said he does not foresee a scenario in which he would send U.S. ground troops to Syria.
The speech comes after a report last week stating Obama had been gearing up to send lethal weapons to the Syrian opposition, according to senior administration officials speaking to The Washington Post.
“We’re not waiting,” he said. “We are working to apply every pressure point that we can on Syria,” Obama said on Friday in a news conference with Costa Rican President Laura Chinchilla
“If in fact there is the kind of systematic use of chemical weapons inside of Syria, we expect we are going to get additional further evidence and at that point we will absolutely present that to the international community,” Obama said.
If Syria is continuing to use chemical weapons, more evidence is bound to turn up, Obama added.
But Obama made clear he was not inclined to send troops to Syria, saying “I do not foresee” such a scenario.
The United States has said it has “varying degrees of confidence” that chemical weapons have been used by Syria’s government, which violates a “red line” that Obama had established against such action.
Any additional steps taken by the United States, he said, will be based on the “facts on the ground” in Syria and what is in the best interests of the American people and U.S. national security.”
He stressed he would not be pressured prematurely into a deeper intervention into Syria.
“I’m going to make those decision based on the best evidence and after careful consultation, because when we rush into things, when we leap before we look, then not only do we pay a price but oftentimes we see unintended consequences on the ground. So it’s important that we do it right,” Obama said.
Privately, U.S. officials predict it will be weeks before any conclusion is reached about whether Syria used chemical weapons, according to Reuters news agency. Syria denies using chemical weapons.
Obama has repeatedly shied away from deep U.S. involvement in the Syrian conflict, which erupted in 2011 and has killed 70,000 people and created more than 1.2 million refugees.