Lacking domestic consensus, United Nations support and NATO backing, Barack Obama has turned to Congress to authorise a military strike against Syria that the US President had been poised to approve.
”I have decided that the United States should take military action against Syrian regime targets,” the President said at the White House on Saturday afternoon.
”I’m also mindful that I’m President of the world’s oldest constitutional democracy.”
Hours later, the White House sent a resolution to Congress for it to consider and vote on that would give Mr Obama authority to launch an attack on Syria. Congressional leaders confirmed they would vote on the resolution no later than the week beginning September 9, when they return from summer recess.
With the US hesitating after Britain’s government was rebuked in Parliament over its planned role in the attack, French President Francois Hollande has announced he too will have his parliament consider the pending action after the US Congress votes – suggesting that the momentum behind a US-led military strike is slowing.
Mr Obama’s move is fraught with political risk as Congress remains fractured and log-jammed. Some Republican members have a poisonous relationship with the White House as well as their own party leadership.
The President called on Congress to look past political differences as it debated a strike against President Bashar al-Assad’s regime in retribution for its use of chemical weapons in the Syrian civil war.
There are signs that his plea has been ignored, with one Republican, Mike Turner, chairman of the House armed services committee’s subcommittee on tactical air and land forces, saying he would block funding for an attack until the President reverses the so-called ”sequester” spending cuts, which both sides of politics have been blaming on each other since 2011.
Senior Republican hawks John McCain and Lindsey Graham said they could not support the attack because it did not go far enough.
Both men have long been calling on the US to intervene to remove Dr Assad from power.
While the constitution does confer the responsibility for declaring war on Congress, it has become standard practice for the President as commander-in-chief of the armed forces to launch military action unilaterally, depending on Congress to then authorise funding once troops are in action.
As a senator, Mr Obama spoke out against this practice and, some time on Friday night, he decided to seek congressional approval for the strike. But, in his statement, he made it clear he believed he had the legal authority to launch the action without congressional approval.
Officials told reporters that on Friday night – the day after British Prime Minister David Cameron lost a vote to back the attack – the President walked in the grounds of the White House with chief of staff Denis McDonough and decided to refer the matter to Congress.
Only hours before, Secretary of State John Kerry laid out a passionate argument in favour of attacking.
On Sunday Syria’s main opposition bloc said it was disappointed with Mr Obama’s decision to seek approval from Congress for action against the regime, but believed lawmakers would OK a strike.
“We had a feeling of disappointment. We were expecting things to be quicker, that a strike would be imminent . . . But we believe congress will approve a strike,” said Samir Nashar, a top official at the Syrian National Coalition.
Mr Nashar said the coalition was confident that Arab foreign ministers who were to meet on Sunday in Cairo would give “very strong support” to US-led military action.
He said intelligence that would be shown to members of Congress contained proof that the regime of Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad was behind the alleged attack on August 21.
“They will understand that the context is completely different than that of Iraq.”
Another coalition member, who declined to be named, was fatalistic.
“He who waits two-years-and-a-half can wait another 10 days,” he said.
The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.