President Obama put on hold Saturday a plan to attack Syria for its alleged use of chemical weapons, arguing that the United States had a moral responsibility to respond forcefully but would not do so until Congress has a chance to vote on the use of military force.
Obama did not indicate what he would do if Congress rejects the measure.
Lawmakers are scheduled to return from recess on 9th of September To begin what is sure to be a contentious debate about the risks of injecting the United States into a conflict in which it has few reliable allies and enemies on both sides of the front lines. The Senate will hold committee hearings on the proposed strike this week, Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) announced last Saturday.
The decision to seek congressional approval for what the administration has said would be a short, limited engagement was a remarkable turn one day after Secretary of State John F. Kerry delivered an almost-prosecutor case for military intervention. Obama made the decision Friday night following days of agonizing deliberations with members of his Cabinet, according to administration officials.
Shifting the burden to Congress potentially gives the president a way out of the political bind he created last year when he said Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad’s use of chemical weapons would be a “red line” for the United States. It also buys the administration time to shore up domestic and international support for a strike that many came to see as a hasty response with potentially catastrophic consequences.
The decision could work in Assad’s favor, giving him more time to prepare for an attack that could ultimately become politically untenable for Obama.
Obama argued Saturday that the United States would be setting a dangerous precedent if it did not respond to the Aug. 21 attack in a Damascus suburb, which U.S. intelligence officials say killed nearly 1,500 civilians, including 426 children.
“This attack is an assault on human dignity,” Obama said in an impassioned afternoon address in the White House Rose Garden. “It also presents a serious danger to our national security. . . . It could lead to escalating use of chemical weapons, or their proliferation to terrorist groups who would do our people harm.”
Some members of Congress applauded Obama’s move, a strikingly unusual one in presidential history, particularly for a leader who has been criticized for dodging congressional oversight. The president does not need congressional approval for limited military interventions, and the executive branch has not sought it in the past.
“At this point in our country’s history, this is absolutely the right decision, and I look forward to seeing what the administration brings forward and to a vigorous debate on this important authorization,” said Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.).