Obama has authority to act without Congress, senior administration official says
Obama sends letter to Congress with draft legislation
Republican senator: Several moderate Democrats called for congressional approval
Sens. McCain and Graham say any strike must be aimed at regime change
Syria warned the United States on Friday that it is prepared to confront any aggression against the war-torn nation.
In a televised address from the White House Rose Garden, the president appealed for members of Congress to consider their responsibilities and values in debating U.S. military action over Syria’s alleged chemical weapons use. Here are the latest developments:
– France’s prime minister will meet with the ministers of foreign affairs and defense, as well as other officials, on Monday to discuss Syria – two days before an open debate on Wednesday, the government said.
– The Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday will begin a debate on the authorization of the use of military force in Syria, committee Chairman Robert Menendez, D-New Jersey, said in a statement Saturday.
– President Barack Obama sent to the heads of the House and Senate a letter Saturday with draft legislation that would authorize use of the U.S. military “in connection with the conflict in Syria.” This comes after Obama said he would seek congressional approval for U.S. military action in Syria over the alleged use of chemical weapons.
– Sen. Ted Cruz, the Texas Republican who has been a critic of Obama administration policies, said Saturday he is “very glad” the president is seeking congressional authorization for any use of force in Syria, but is troubled by the “justifications the Obama administration has put forth so far.”
– U.S. President Barack Obama and French President Francois Hollande chatted in a phone call Saturday about Syria, with the two leaders agreeing that “the international community must deliver a resolute message” to the Bashar al-Assad government and “others who would consider using chemical weapons.”
– U.S. intelligence is showing Syrian army units dispersed into defensive positions in recent days and the belief is that posture could continue for some days, a senior Defense Department official said.
– The chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff said there will be “appropriate targeting options” in Syria and the military is using the latest intelligence to refine its targeting, said Col. Edward Thomas, spokesman for chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey.
– President Barack Obama is turning to Congress to approve military action against Syria because such a mission has not received enough support across the world and in the United States, influential Russian lawmaker Alexei Pushkov said in a Twitter message Saturday.
– U.N. chemical weapons inspectors could take as long as three weeks to analyze evidence from the sites of alleged Syrian chemical weapons attacks, according to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. Nine of the 12 inspectors are part of the group. An independent chemical weapons expert, however, suggested the results may require as little as a week.
– Several moderate Democratic senators made a strong case to administration officials on Friday that Obama needs congressional authorization for military action against Syria, a Republican senator told CNN on Saturday. The senator was on a Friday call with members of the Senate’s foreign relations and armed services committees.
– Sen. Saxby Chambliss, top Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said Saturday he appreciates Obama’s decision to seek congressional approval but that he should have demanded that Congress return immediately to debate the issue.
– House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said Saturday military action in response to Assad’s use of chemical weapons – limited in scope and duration and without boots on the ground – is in America’s national security interest and furthers regional stability and global security.
– Sens. John McCain, R-Arizona, and Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, said Saturday they cannot support isolated military strikes in Syria that are not part of a strategy to remove President Bashar al-Assad from power and bring an end to the conflict. Anything less would be an inadequate response to crimes against humanity and send the wrong signal to America’s friends and allies, they said.
– Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, said Saturday he is “encouraged President Obama now says he will fulfill his constitutional obligation to seek authorization for any potential military action in Syria.”
– “If the Syrian regime thinks they’ll gain by any delay if the U.S. takes military action in the future, they’d be sorely mistaken,” a U.S. defense official said Saturday, adding the American military is able to deal with the coming days of uncertainty about a strike.
– Secretary of State John Kerry spoke with the Syrian opposition leader and the Saudi foreign minister to underscore President Barack Obama’s commitment to holding the Syrian regime accountable for last week’s chemical weapons attack, a senior State Department official said Saturday.
– It was around 7 p.m. Friday night that Obama came to his decision to seek congressional approval, senior administration officials said Saturday. He was wrestling with the decision all week, and there was a debate within the president’s senior advisers after his decision, the officials said.
– Sen. Robert Menendez, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said Saturday he will work with Senate leaders “as expeditiously as possible” to authorize use of military force against Syria. “We say what we mean, we mean what we say, and we don’t look away when undeniable war crimes are committed,” the New Jersey Democrat said.
– Iranian lawmakers arrived in Damascus on Saturday “as a sign of solidarity with the Syrian government,” Iran’s state-run news agency IRNA reported.
– Sen. Carl Levin, D-Michigan and the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said Saturday that Obama “wisely chose” to seek congressional support for military action against Syria. Congressional authorization, he said, would strengthen Obama’s decision to take action.
– A spokesman for the opposition Syrian National Coalition told CNN’s Ivan Watson on Saturday that the opposition group was surprised by Obama’s decision to consult Congress before any military action against Syria. Louay Safi said it was a “great disappointment” because they expected action after the U.S. administration blamed the Assad regime for carrying out the chemical weapons attack. “Our fear now is that the lack of action could embolden the regime and they repeat his attacks in a more serious way,” Safi said.
– Republican leadership aides told CNN’s Dana Bash on Saturday that the congressional vote on action against Syria is going to depend on the White House. They said the president needs to make his case to Congress and the American people. The White House also needs to answer the questions that the House speaker and others in Congress have asked, they said.
– U.S. Rep. Peter King, R-New York, chairman of the Homeland Security Subcommittee on Counterintelligence and Terrorism and a member of the Select Committee on Intelligence, said Saturday the president is “abdicating his responsibility as commander-in-chief and undermining the authority of future presidents” by seeking congressional approval for military action against Syria. Now that he is seeking it, however, Obama should call Congress back into a special session at the earliest date, he said.
– The top Republican leaders in the U.S. House issued a statement Saturday saying they are glad the president will seek congressional authorization for any military action against Syria. In the statement, House Speaker John Boehner, Majority Leader Eric Cantor, Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy and Conference Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers said they expect the House to consider the measure the week of September 9.
– British Prime Minister David Cameron tweeted Saturday after the president’s speech, “I understand and support Barack Obama’s position on #Syria.”
– After Obama’s speech, a military and political analyst on Syrian state TV said Obama is “embarrassed” that Russia opposes military action against Syria, is “crying for help” for someone to come to his rescue, and is facing two defeats – on the political and military levels.
– U.S. Senator Bob Corker, R-Tennessee, a ranking member of the Foreign Relations Committee, said Saturday he is pleased that Obama plans to seek congressional authorization for military action against Syria. He said he looks forward to a “vigorous debate” on the issue and that it’s now “imperative” that Obama use “every ounce of his energy” to make his case to the American people.
– Obama said that the United States “should take military action against Syrian targets.” However, he said in a Rose Garden address that he would seek congressional authorization when federal lawmakers return from recess.
– The United States will insist that claims of chemical weapons use by Syria are investigated and confronted by the world community, Obama said.
– Obama appealed for congressional leaders to consider their responsibilities and values in debating U.S. military action in Syria over its alleged chemical weapons use.”Some things are more important than partisan differences or the politics of the moment,” he said.”Today I’m asking Congress to send a message to the world that we are united as one nation.”
– Obama said “a country faces few decisions as grave as taking military action” – but that the evidence of chemical weapons use against men, women and children in Syria demands action.”If we really do want to turn away from taking appropriate action in the face of such an unspeakable outrage then we must acknowledge the costs of doing nothing,” he said.
– U.N. spokesman Martin Nesirky on Saturday gave no timetable for the analysis of evidence and witness accounts of an alleged chemical weapons attack in Syria. He also said, “The secretary-general has also said repeatedly that there is no alternative to a political solution to this crisis, overall crisis in Syria – a military solution is not an option.”
– A plane carrying the U.N. inspectors and their cargo of evidence arrived Saturday afternoon at the Hague Airport in Rotterdam, the Netherlands.
– “The Syrian Army’s status is on maximum readiness and fingers are on the trigger to confront all challenges,” said Prime Minister Wael Nader al-Halqi during a meeting with a delegation of Syrian expatriates from Italy, according to a banner on Syria State TV.
– Senior Obama administration officials will hold unclassified conference calls Saturday afternoon with the Senate Republican Conference and the Senate Democratic Caucus to continue the administration’s consultations regarding the alleged use of chemical weapons in Syria in an August 21 attack by the Syrian government, a White House official told CNN.
– Speaker John Boehner’s office told House members that they have access to the classified intelligence assessment on Syria and that the White House will brief all interested House members at 2 p.m. on Sunday.
– National Security Adviser Susan Rice, Kerry, Hagel, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. James Winnefeld, Jr., and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper will be speaking for the administration.
– Russian President Vladimir Putin said the claim that Damascus used chemical weapons is a provocation, Russian state news agency Ria Novosti reported Saturday. He added that he hopes to take up the matter during a planned meeting with Obama during the G20 summit on September 5-6.
– A military commander in Iran said Saturday that Israel will face retaliatory attacks if the United States attacks Syria. Gen. Hassan Firouzabadi also said that a U.S. offensive would threaten Russian interests.