Obama on Syria strike: "This is not Iraq, and this is not Afghanistan"

The U.S. military plan for Syria is "proportional, it is limited, it does not involve boots on the ground," President Obama told reporters ahead of his first meeting with lawmakers since announcing he would seek congressional authorization to strike in the civil war-torn country. "This is not Iraq, and this is not Afghanistan."

Flanked by House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio - who later announced his support for a Syrian military strike - Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and members of both parties from key national security committees, Mr. Obama said the plan, developed by the Joint Chiefs of staff, will degrade Syrian President Bashar Assad's capabilities amid mounting evidence he used chemical weapons against his own people.

But it will also offer, he went on, "a broader strategy that will allow us to upgrade the capabilities of the opposition, allow Syria ultimately to free itself from the kinds of terrible civil wars and death and activity that we've been seeing on the ground.

"...We have to make sure that we can bring about over time the kind of strengthening of the opposition and the diplomatic and economic and political pressure," the president continued, "so that ultimately we have a transition that can bring peace and stability not only to Syria but to the region."

Mr. Obama defended his surprise decision to take Syrian intervention to Congress - a move typically reserved for boots-on-the-ground action - arguing "we will be much more effective, we will be stronger, if we take action together, as one nation." Asked if he would be willing to rewrite parts of the authorization to include lawmakers' input, he suggested he would.

"I would not be going to Congress if I wasn't serious about consultations and believing that by shaping the authorization to make sure we accomplish the mission, we will be more effective," he said.

Though divide between hawks and non-interventionists threatens the possibility the president's draft will not be approved, some key lawmakers from both parties told reporters after the meeting that they plan to get behind it.

"It's pretty clear to me that the United Nations is unable to take action, NATO not likely to take action," said Boehner, who last week pressed the president for more answers on his Syria policy. "The use of these weapons have to be responded to, and only the United States has the capability and the capacity to stop Assad and to warn others around the world that this type of behavior is not going to be tolerated.

"...I appreciate the president asking the Congress to support him in this action," Boehner continued. "This is something the United States, as a country, needs to do. I'm going to support the president's call for action. I believe my colleagues should support this call for action."

Pelosi added later that though she aligns herself with Boehner's position and expects Congress to vote the request through, she believes the American people still need to hear more about the intelligence on the ground in Syria.

"Now we go to the next step of having further debate in the Congress of the United States," she said. "And I am hopeful as the American people are persuaded that this action happened, that Assad did it, that hundreds of children were killed, this is behavior outside the circle of civilized human behavior. And we must respond.

"...So it is really something from a humanitarian standpoint that cannot be ignored, or else we cannot say, 'never again,'" Pelosi continued, clarifying later that she was comparing the situation more to Rwanda and not to the Holocaust. "Secondly from a national security standpoint, we have to send a very clear message to those who have weapons of mass destruction of any variety that they should forget about using them."

  • Lindsey Boerma On Twitter»

    Lindsey Boerma is senior video producer for CBSNews.com.

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