National Security Advisor Susan Rice told NBC News on Tuesday the Obama administration has "no expectation of losing the vote in Congress" on whether to authorize U.S. military action against Syria.
In an exclusive interview with Brian Williams on NBC Nightly News, Rice said the White House is "quite confident" that Congress will approve Obama's plan to launch punitive cruise missile strikes against Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime.
"We think that the Congress of the United States and the American people understand that we have compelling national interests at stake here," said Rice, the former U.S. ambassador to the U.N.
Rice touted crucial endorsements from "key leaders," including House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), who announced Tuesday that he would back Obama's call for military action against Assad for allegedly using chemical weapons against his people Aug. 21 in a mass murder the administration says killed 1,426 people.
Obama also said Tuesday he feels assured that lawmakers will OK military strikes. He said he would be prepared to rewrite his draft resolution to Congress "so long as we are accomplishing what needs to be accomplished, which is to degrade Assad."
As Secretary of State John Kerry and other top U.S. officials wrapped up a day of testimony before the U.S. Senate, Rice emphasized one of the cornerstones of the Obama administration's case for military intervention: the possibility that Assad or other "dictators and terrorists" could deploy chemical weapons against the U.S. or allies surrounding Syria.
"If the chemical weapons are used — randomly and wantonly, as they have become to be by Assad — that threatens very important partners of the United States," Rice said, citing Turkey, Lebanon, Iraq, Jordan and Israel as key allies in the "sensitive region" of the Middle East.
Rice added that a failure to take action against Assad's regime would send the wrong "message" to other enemies around the world — namely, Iran and North Korea.
If "Syria is able to use weapons of mass destruction against its own people and get away with it, that gives a green light not only to Assad to keep gassing his own people, but to Iran and North Korea and all the others in the world that have the ambition to acquire weapons of mass destruction and use them with abandon," she said.
She added: "We cannot let that happen."
Kerry said in a conference call with Democratic lawmakers Monday Congress faces a “Munich moment,” a reference to the 1938 agreement that ceded part of Czechoslovakia to Nazi Germany, and that was seen in hindsight as an appeasement of Adolf Hitler.
When asked to respond to criticism from some that the Obama administration's public declarations to take action against Syria potentially give Assad time to prepare, Rice firmly denied the charge, saying: "We have not announced our intentions to the enemy."
Rice said that Obama's case for intervention is consistent with his opposition to the use of chemical weapons and upholding "international norms."
"In making clear for quite a while that this would not be allowed, we weren't telegraphing our intentions," Rice said. "We were making plain that there are standards, there are norms that must be upheld in our collective interests."
Perhaps responding to public concerns that intervention in Syria could lead to another long-term entanglement in the Middle East just a decade after the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, Rice insisted that the administration is "talking about limited and targeted military action — limited in duration and scope with no boots on the ground."
She added that the goal of any military force would not be "regime charge," but to "underscore" the firm opposition to the use of chemical weapons.
Kasie Hunt and Eric McClam of NBC News contributed to this report.
First published September 3 2013, 4:30 PM