Syria military strike stakes high for Obama
US President Barack Obama tries to rally support from US lawmakers, the American people, and the international community for a limited military strike on Syria.PT1M58S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-2tg4c 620 349 September 9, 2013
President Barack Obama is gearing for an all-out push at home and abroad for strikes against the Syrian regime.
With US politicians returning on Monday from their summer break, Mr Obama faces a defining moment in his presidency.
Secretary of State John Kerry has taken the White House's campaign to Europe, telling the French public that ''this is our Munich moment … our chance to join together and pursue accountability over appeasement''.
Quiet chat: Secretary of State John Kerry confers with Arab League officials after talks at the US embassy in Paris. Photo: Reuters
The European Union called on Saturday for a ''clear and strong'' international response to what it said was ''strong evidence'' that the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was responsible for a deadly chemical weapons attack on August 21 near Damascus.
But the EU statement stopped far short of endorsing a US military strike - something that US officials acknowledged many of the organisation's 28 member states do not support.
After talks with Arab League leaders in Paris, Mr Kerry said: ''All of us agree, not one dissenter, that Assad's deplorable use of chemical weapons … crosses an international global red line.''
He said Saudi Arabia backed a strike and that other nations would declare their support within the next 24 hours.
While a resolution for a military strike is likely to pass the Senate controlled by Mr Obama's Democrats, according to a Washington Post survey some 224 of the current 433 members of the Republican-dominated House of Representatives were either ''no'' or ''leaning no'' on military action as of Friday. Only 25 were on the record as backing a strike.
Massachusetts Democrat Jim McGovern told CNN that he had ''great admiration'' for the President ''but sometimes friends disagree''.
''We're being told that there's two choices: do nothing or bomb Syria,'' Mr McGovern said. ''Clearly there have to be some other choices in between. We ought to explore them.''
Texas Republican Mike McCaul, chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, said he could not support military action because ''once we hit, this is an act of war''.
''Little wars start big wars, and we have to remember that, and I think we have to be very cautious,'' he said.
Yet top White House officials say the vote is far from lost.
''It's too early to come to any conclusion,'' Mr Obama's chief of staff Denis McDonough said on Fox News Sunday.
The White House, he said, isn't focused on the broader political impact of a possible congressional failure.
''We are approaching this question simply for the national security implications that it entails,'' he said.
''The President is not interested in the politics of this.''
Former White House senior adviser David Axelrod said on NBC's Meet the Press: ''The reality is, I think it's very hard for him to act if Congress votes it down.''
Mr McGovern said: ''If I were the President, I would withdraw my request for authorisation at this particular point. People view war as a last resort. And I don't think people think that we're at that point.''
AFP, New York Times, Bloomberg