Syria becomes high-stakes gamble for Obama, Congress
Syria is likely to color if not define the rest of President Obama's last term in office – and beyond that, his presidential legacy. In Congress, lawmakers now must assume co-ownership of US foreign policy in this most difficult and contentious part of the world.
In Pictures Syria's civil war: a Middle East crisis
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For the President, whatever happens in coming days as lawmakers return from their summer break to debate Obama’s plan to attack the regime of President Bashar al-Assad is likely to color if not define the rest of his last term in office – and beyond that, his presidential legacy.
For Congress – especially the Republican-led House – getting what they wanted on Syria will not be a walk in the park. Voting “yea” or “nay,” lawmakers now must assume co-ownership of US foreign policy in this most difficult and contentious part of the world at a time when the ghost of Iraq hovers about and most Americans are highly skeptical of anything that could involve them in another war.
But for now, and at least until Congress gets back to fulltime work in Washington Sept. 9, the focus is on Obama’s Rose Garden announcement Saturday that he wants to attack the Assad regime for its use of chemical weapons but will hold off until House and Senate debate and vote on an authorization measure.
“A successful vote in Congress would strengthen Obama’s hand with both allies and enemies,” reports Politico.com. “The flip side: a losing vote could weaken the president ahead of debates on key domestic issues including the budget, debt ceiling, Obamacare funding, and immigration. On the international stage, it could embolden Syria, Iran, and other unfriendly countries.”
The Obama administration is wasting no time in pushing its message that Assad not only killed more than 1,400 people (including more than 400 children) in a recent chemical attack, but that he did so in violation of international law and must therefore be punished.
Appearing on five TV news shows Sunday, Secretary of State John Kerry reported specific evidence that sarin gas had been used in the Aug. 21 attack in Syria. Until now, the type of gas had not been so positively identified.
"In the last 24 hours, we have learned through samples that were provided to the United States and that have now been tested from first responders in East Damascus, and hair samples and blood samples have tested positive for signatures of sarin," Sec. Kerry said on NBC's Meet the Press.