President Obama today sought to shift responsibility for his famous “red line” for action against Syria for the use of chemical weapons, saying his statement was no more than a response to “red lines” effectively drawn by Congress and the international community.
“I didn’t set a red line: the world set a red line,” Obama said, referring to an international treaty banning the use of chemical weapons. And Congress, Obama said, “set a red line when it ratified that treaty.”
The president spoke during a press conference with Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt of Sweden, where Obama arrived today for a visit.
Contrary to some reporting that suggests Obama spoke extemporaneously when he drew the red line, Obama said his comments a year ago were deliberate.
“That wasn’t something I just kind of made up,” Obama said. “I didn’t just pull it out of thin air.” He added that therefore, the decision about whether to go ahead with an attack Syria is not a test of his credibility, but a test of the credibility of Congress and America to act on its outrage at the chemical weapons attacks.
Obama did not respond to a question about whether he would act on his own if Congress failed to approve an attack on Syria, saying, “I believe that Congress will approve it.” But he added, “I do not believe that I was required to take this to Congress.”
Obama said the decision to take the matter to Congress had been “brewing in my mind for some time,” suggesting it was not a sudden change of course, as some have charged.