Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Obama's Path to Syria Strike Suddenly Littered with Speed Bumps

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Obama's Path to Syria Strike Suddenly Littered with Speed Bumps

Article excerpt

A sudden series of obstacles, including mounting congressional resistance and speed bumps overseas, have dramatically slowed the path the US was taking toward carrying out airstrikes in Syria over the use of chemical weapons there.

As recently as Wednesday President Obama said he had "concluded" that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad had conducted large-scale chemical weapons attacks, and had to be held "accountable." It now seems he must either wait for international partners to join the US, which could effectively put off punitive attacks for more than a week, or decide the US will "go it alone" and commence retaliatory measures without allied participation.

The White House planned to hold a conference call with congressional leaders late Thursday afternoon to lay out the evidence that Mr. Assad carried out the Aug. 21 attacks that international relief organizations say killed hundreds of Syrian civilians. That evidence will be made public "by the end of the week," according to White House officials.

But a growing roster of members of Congress is saying that a US military response requires more than a conference call with congressional leaders.

House Speaker John Boehner suggested after a phone call with Mr. Obama Thursday that many of the "concerns" he laid out in the conversation were not addressed and that the case for military strikes would require more time for explanations from the president.

"Only the president can answer these questions, and it is clear that further dialogue and consultation with Congress, as well as communication with the American public, will be needed," Mr. Boehner's spokesman, Brendan Buck, said in a statement.

That domestic resistance was mounting as international complications increased - starting with British Prime Minister David Cameron's inability to win quick approval Thursday from Parliament for military action.

Obama has said ever since he began discussing the possibility of US military action against Syrian targets over the Aug. 21 chemical attacks that any US action would be conducted in conjunction with international partners. But on Thursday the White House began publicly outlining the "national security interests" in play in Syria that would justify the US taking action without participation of other countries, should the president decide to do so.

Obama will make a decision on Syria "with our national security interests front and center," White House deputy spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters Thursday afternoon. Those interests threatened by Syria's using chemical weapons range from its location "in a very volatile region of the world" to the fact that it borders Turkey, a NATO ally; Jordan, a close US partner, and Israel, "a country we've vowed to protect."

Mr. Earnest made special note that the British foreign minister, William Hague, noted in comments Thursday that the Americans "will be able to make their own decisions" concerning Syria action. …

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