Yesterday, President Obama spoke on his plan for tackling the Syrian chemical weapons problem. He urged Congress to postpone their vote on authorizing military force (authorization he requested but says he doesn’t need), which looked like it would be voted down. He attempted to make the case for a limited military strike against Assad, which would not be intended to oust Assad. Instead the limited strike would be intended to deter Assad from further chemical weapon use. Obama repeatedly said that such an attack would not involve “boots on the ground”.
This comes after a passing remark by Kerry was taken seriously by Russia and Assad. The remark was that Assad could avert a U.S. attack by turning over “every single bit of his chemical weapons to the international community in the next week.” Kerry added that Assad wouldn’t do it and “it can’t be done.” Despite this, Russia began working with Assad to do just that. The U.S. is viewing this new avenue with skepticism, because such a turnover would be difficult to monitor and it would be almost impossible to prove that all the chemical weapons had been turned over. Additionally, Russia later vetoed a French proposed U.N. resolution which would leave the door open for military force if Assad did not cooperate with turning over chemical weapons.
Earlier in the week, Assad gave an interview with Charlie Rose. He denied using chemical weapons, saying that there was “not a shred of evidence” that his forces were responsible for the alleged chemical weapons use on August 21. Assad has claimed that the rebels were responsible for the chemical attacks, which was an attempt to pull the west into the conflict. He also warned of possible reprisals, from the Syrian government, Iran, and even various terrorist groups. “If you strike somewhere, you have to expect repercussions somewhere else,” Assad said.
The international reaction is mixed, with France backing military action, the U.K. parliament voting down military intervention, and the European Union calling for a “political solution”. The U.S. issued a joint statement that was signed by 24 nations. The statement condemned the use of chemical weapons on August 21 and said, “We support efforts undertaken by the United States and other countries to reinforce the prohibition on the use of chemical weapons.” Germany did not sign, and while Italy signed, they made it clear that they would not participate in any military action.
Support in Congress is mixed, with members of both parties on both sides of the debate. House Speaker Boehner (R), House Majority leader McConnell (R), House Minority leader Nancy Pelosi (D), Senate John McCain (R), Senate Saxby Chambliss (R), and Senate Majority leader Harry Reid (D) all support authorizing military force. Rand Paul (R), Alan Grayson (D-FL), Brian Higgins (D-NY), Justin Amash (R), and many others oppose any military action. The reasons range from questioning the legitimacy of the weapons of mass destruction evidence, to wanting the U.S. to get international support, to believing Obama has not provided a coherent enough strategy to merit support.
The Walls Street Journal, Obama Holds Fire on Syria, Waits on Russia Plan: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887324549004579067002690675662.html?mod=WSJ_hpp_LEFTTopStories
The Wall Street Journal, Kerry Says Assad Has Ability to Prevent U.S. Strike: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887323595004579064600840673322.html?mod=WSJ_hpp_LEFTTopStories
The Wall Street Journal, Obama’s Successful Foreign Failure: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887323595004579062811443943666.html?mod=WSJ_hps_sections_opinion
The Wall Street Journal, Russia Urges Syria to Give Up Chemical Weapons: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887323595004579064600840673322.html?mod=WSJ_hpp_LEFTTopStories
The Guardian, Syrian President Assad Threatens ‘Repercussions’ if U.S. Launches Strikes: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/sep/09/syrian-president-assad-repercussions-air-strike
The Guardian, On Syria, John Kerry is Confusing International Law with American Pride: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/sep/09/syria-john-kerry-international-law
The Washington Post, Where Congress Stands on Syria: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/special/politics/where-lawmakers-stand-on-syria/?hpid=z1
Yahoo News, Pope, in Syria Peace Appeal, Calls for End to Spiral of Death: http://news.yahoo.com/pope-syria-peace-appeal-calls-end-spiral-death-184259538.html#
The Wall Street Journal, Obama’s Call to Hit Syria Splits World Leaders: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887323623304579059022988641910.html
The Wall Street Journal, E.U. Calls for ‘Clear, Strong’ Response to Syria: http://www.marketwatch.com/story/eu-calls-for-clear-strong-response-to-syria-2013-09-07
U.S.A. Today, Obama Team: 24 Nations Back Us on Syria: http://www.usatoday.com/story/theoval/2013/09/09/obama-syria-24-countries-statement/2787217/
Wired, U.S. Offers Assad a Compromise, Takes It Back: http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2013/09/syria-kerrys-non-offer-to-assad-adds-to-uncertainty-of-strike/
The Wall Street Journal, Obama’s Syria Problem: Democrats: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887324577304579057241124523908.html