Meet the Press   |  September 08, 2013

McDonough urges lawmakers to authorize action in Syria

White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough visits Meet the Press to discuss recently released footage of a chemical assault on the Syrian people.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>> obama administration has released disturbing pictures that apparently show the aftermath of a chemical attack in syria. this is video, the administration showed members of congress this week in order to make the case for military strikes. it appears to show victims of the august 1st attack by bashar al assad that killed more than 1,400 people. joining me now, the president's chief of staff, denis mcdonough . welcome back.

>> thanks for having me, david.

>> you have made the statements that these pictures, among other evidence, makes the case to congress and the american people , and yet congress doesn't appear to be with you when it comes to military strikes. why not?

>> look, i hope that every member of congress , before he or she decides how they'll cast their vote, will look at those pictures. let me tell you what i've been up to for the last couple weeks, david, talking to members of congress , dozens of them, including at least two who will be on your panel. nobody is rebutting the intelligence. nobody doubts the intelligence. that means that everybody believes that bashar al assad used chemical weapons against his own people to the tune that you just said, of killing nearly 1,500 on august 21st . so the question for congress this week is what are the consequences for his having done so? how congress chooses to answer that question will be listened to very clearly in damascus, but not just in damascus. also in tehran and lebanese and hezbollah.

>> i want to apologize for interrupting. you're saying, look, if we don't do this, iran, which you believe is developing a nuclear weapon , looks at that and says, aha! the natures could be trifled with.

>> i think it's very difficult for us to know exactly what is happening in tehran. but what we do know is to communicate with them, we have to be very clear, very forthright. this is an opportunity to be both with the iranians to make sure that they understand that they do not have greater freedom of action. they do not have greater operating space to pursue a nuclear weapon which would destabilize that entire region, threaten our friends and allies and ultimately threaten us.

>> is this more about iran than it is syria?

>> this is about a series of very important things. in the first instance, almost 100 years old now, a prohibition against the use of chemical weapons . why does that matter? well, it matters for the reason that you started the show with, but it also matters for another reason. our troops have not been subjected to chemical weapon as tacks since world war i. imagine, it was the weapon of the day in world war i, but because of our work and the work of our partners, it has now been prohibited except in many few instances, and we have to make sure that for the sake of our guys, our men and women on the front lines, that we reinforce this prohibition.