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Protesters outside the White House, Obama team makes case for attacking Syria (+video)

President Obama has just a few days to make his case on Syria before highly skeptical lawmakers vote on authorizing a US military attack. The response of possible allies, congressional head counts, and opinion polls illustrate his enormous challenge.

By Staff writer / September 7, 2013

Anti-war demonstrators in Washington protest against possible U.S. military action in Syria in front of the White House Saturday, Sept. 7, 2013.

Charles Dharapak/AP


President Obama returned home from the Group of 20 summit Friday night to a country largely opposed to US military action in Syria.

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In St. Petersburg, Russia, he had failed to win any support of note. On Capitol Hill, congressional whip counts of lawmaker inclinations on resolutions backing the President are way in the negative column.

Across the US, public opinion is clearly against attacking the regime of Bashar al-Assad for its use of chemical weapons against civilians. If he opened the windows at the White House Saturday, Mr. Obama would have heard demonstrators loudly protesting any US military attack on Syria. Protesters demonstrated in New York, Boston, and other cities as well.

Undeterred, the President and top administration officials are fanning out across the world, looking to find any sign of support for responding to Obama’s “red line” on chemical weapons in Syria with military might.

United Nations Ambassador Samantha Power argued the administration’s case for military action before the generally liberal Center for American Progress in Washington Friday – the kind of audience that now finds itself allied with the conservative tea party movement on Syria.

On Saturday, Secretary of State John Kerry flew to Lithuania, where he met with European foreign ministers, who agreed with the US that the Aug. 21 alleged chemical attack said to have killed more than 1,400 people appears to have been the work of the Syrian regime.

Sec. Kerry welcomed the "strong statement about the need for accountability." Still, the EU did not specify what an appropriate response would be, and in a joint statement the foreign ministers said any potential military attack against Syria should wait for a U.N. inspectors' report expected later this month.

From Vilnius, Kerry headed for Paris to meet French leaders and Arab League foreign ministers.

In his regular radio address Saturday, Obama previewed the arguments he’ll likely make Tuesday when he addresses the American people on the eve of a full Senate vote Wednesday on the resolution authorizing use of force.

"We cannot turn a blind eye to images like the ones we've seen out of Syria,” he said. “Failing to respond to this outrageous attack would increase the risk that chemical weapons could be used again; that they would fall into the hands of terrorists who might use them against us, and it would send a horrible signal to other nations that there would be no consequences for their use of these weapons. All of which would pose a serious threat to our national security.”


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