The Obama administration is brushing aside Syrian President Bashar al Assad’s declarations of victory in the face of President Obama’s announcement that he would hold off on any military strike in retaliation to the Assad regime’s use of chemical weapons while he takes his case to Congress.
“Assad has said a lot of things in the course of this … the more he stands up and crows, the more he will help this decision to be made correctly,” Secretary of State John Kerry told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos on Sunday.
“I’m very, very confident that, as the case is made to people, the Congress will recognize – and the American people will come to see the president is talking about a military action geared to deter the use of chemical weapons and geared to diminish Assad’s capacity, to degrade his capacity to be able to carry out those strikes,” he added.
A Syrian state-run newspaper ran a triumphant front-page article Sunday, declaring Obama’s decision to wait for congressional authorization the beginning of a “retreat” by the United States.
“Whether the Congress lights the red or green light for an aggression, and whether the prospects of war have been enhanced or faded, President Obama has announced yesterday, by prevaricating or hinting, the start of the historic American retreat,” Al-Thawra said, according to the Associated Press.
The news came as a blow to the rebel opposition, who were disappointed and disillusioned and said Obama’s decision would embolden the Assad regime and reinforce the impressions that the West does not want regime change in Syria.
In announcing his decision to seek congressional approval on Saturday, Obama said Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, told him that waiting would not weaken the U.S. ability to strike Syria if he gives the order. Pentagon officials later Saturday said U.S. intelligence capabilities allow the military to track any movement of Syrian targets, meaning a missile attack would be effective regardless of whether it takes place in a week and a half, two weeks or a month down the road.
His decision to delay and spread responsibility for any decision on military action to members of Congress did not come without some fallout on the world stage. Obama awoke to headlines in London poking fun at his decision to follow British Prime Minister David Cameron in seeking support from elected leaders. “Obama: I’m Going to Copy Cameron,” London’s Daily Mail proclaimed on its front-page.
Cameron tweeted his support for Mr. Obama’s decision on Saturday.
Unlike Cameron, who reversed course and agreed not to participate with any U.S.-led military action in Syria after Parliament voted down a war resolution, the Obama administration appeared willing to take military action even if it fails to get the nod from Congress.
Still, Kerry said he wasn’t contemplating a failed congressional vote.
“I don’t contemplate that—I think the stakes are just too high here,” he told Stephanopoulos, later adding: “George, we are not going to lose this vote. The president of the United States is committed to securing the unity of the purpose that he believes strengthens America. And I believe the Congress will see that that’s the responsible thing to be done here.”