Ahead of President Barack Obama’s planned Oval Office speech on Syria Tuesday, the situation remains fluid— calls for an attack on the nation continue, the White House holds steadfast in its willingness to strike without Congressional approval and Russia has made moves to defuse the situation.
Asked if President Obama believes he has the authority to strike Syria during a press conference Monday, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said that Congressional approval would simply “enhance” the argument for an attack.
“The President believes that congressional authorization enhances the argument. That it’s important in this case because of the facts given in the assessment by the chairman of the Joint Chiefs that we can attack militarily in a day or a week or a month as the president said and have the desired impact that we seek,” Carney said. “And therefore given that, he thought it was very important to get congressional approval, but he’s also made clear he believes he has the authority as commander-in-chief and president to take action, but we are better and stronger if in these circumstances we receive authorization from Congress.”
Meanwhile, Obama allies continue to use every possible opportunity to drum up support for war with Syria. Speaking at a Wildlife Trafficking Forum on Monday, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made her first public call for an attack on the Syrian government.
“The international community cannot ignore the ongoing threat from the Assad regime’s stockpile of chemical weapons,” Clinton said. “This is about protecting the Syrian people and our friends in the region.”
Clinton and current Secretary of State John Kerry, however, have both alluded to a possible avoidance of military conflict if the Syrian leadership hands over any chemical weapons stockpiled in the country.
“Sure, he could turn over every bit of his weapons to the international community within the next week, without delay,” Kerry said of Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad. “But he isn’t about to.”
Shortly after Kerry made those statements the Russian leadership called on Syria to relinquish any chemical weapon stockpiles.
“We are calling on the Syrian authorities not only agree on putting chemical weapons storages under international control, but also for its further destruction and then joining the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons,” Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said.
Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem claimed that the Syrian government is willing to comply with the Russian demands.
“Syrian Arab Republic welcomes Russia’s initiative, based on the Syrian government’s care about the lives of our people and security of our country,” he said.
Still, Clinton and others appear unconvinced that the Syria-Russia dialogue is anything more than a ploy to delay U.S. military action.
“This discussion that is taking place today … only could take place in the context of a credible military threat by the U.S. to keep pressure on the Syrian government as well as those supporting Syria like Russia,” she said.
National Security Adviser Susan E. Rice, who got a raise following her involvement in the Benghazi controversy, has also discounted the idea Russia can help in making her case for war with Syria. Rice said that if the U.S. doesn’t respond with military action, it “could indicate the United States is not prepared to use the full range of tools necessary to keep our country safe.”
Rice also brought Israel into the equation, saying, “The use of chemical weapons also directly threatens our closest ally in the region, Israel.”
Her statement has led some to hypothesize that a false flag attack against Israel may be launched by Syrian rebels embedded in government-controlled territories in order to attempt to pin a “major provocation” on Syria to speed U.S. intervention.
President Obama, appearing in a special interview with Fox News’ Chris Wallace late Monday, said he realized public and Congressional opinion was not on his side – indicating that his Administration will likely double down on efforts to present its case for war.
“I do believe it’s going to take some time. Chris, you guys have polls, you do head counts. Right now, the American people are not persuaded. Right now, Members of Congress who are just getting back still have questions,” Obama said. “So we’re going to have time to have a good deliberation in Congress. We will pursue this diplomatic track. I fervently hope this can be resolved in a nonmilitary way. But I think it is important for us not to let the pedal off the metal when it comes to making sure they understand we mean what we say about international ban on chemical weapons.”