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President Obama asks Congress to delay vote on military strike against Syria

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President Barack Obama (White House via Flickr)
President Barack Obama (White House via Flickr)

President Barack Obama said Tuesday night that he has asked Congress to postpone a vote on his proposal for a targeted military strike against Syria. The President said he's doing so in an attempt to take a purely diplomatic route with the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, which the US says used chemical weapons to kill more than 1,000 Syrian men, women, and children on August 21st. Additionally, Obama said he would continue to discuss the situation with Russian President Vladimir Putin, and send Secretary of State John Kerry to speak with his Russian counterpart, in a bid to put pressure on Assad to give up control of his chemical weapons stockpile.

Obama's comments, which were delivered in a White House speech, follow Syria's Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem saying earlier on Tuesday that Syria is prepared to place its arsenal of chemical weapons under international control "We've seen some encouraging signs." and sign a treaty prohibiting their use. Syria has also publicly agreed to a Russian proposal to not only give up control of its chemical weapons and make them available for inspection, but to also eventually destroy them so they couldn't be used at all.

"Over the last few days we've seen some encouraging signs in part because of the credible threat of US military action as well as constructive talks that I had with President Putin," Obama said. "The Russian government has indicated a willingness to join with the international community in pushing Assad to give up his chemical weapons. The Assad regime has now admitted that it has these weapons and even said they'd join the chemical weapons convention, which prohibits their use." He added that he has spoken to France and the UK about the situation, and said that "we will work together in consultation with Russia and China to put forward a resolution at the UN Security Council requiring Assad to give up his chemical weapons and to ultimately destroy them under international control."

"It's too early to tell whether this offer will succeed."

Still, as hopeful as Obama says he is about avoiding getting the US military involved in Syria's civil war, the President did note that it still may come to that. "It's too early to tell whether this offer will succeed," he said. "But this initiative has the potential to remove the threat of chemical weapons without the use of force, particularly because Russia is one of Assad's strongest allies." If diplomacy doesn't work and the US decides to launch a strike against Syria, Obama argued that he will do everything to not allow the country to fall into yet another war. "I have resisted calls for military action, because we cannot resolve someone else's civil war through force," he said, noting that the US has spent the last decade in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"I will not put American boots on the ground in Syria," Obama said. "I will not pursue an open-ended action like Iraq or Afghanistan. I will not pursue a prolonged air campaign like Libya or Kosovo. This would be a targeted strike to achieve a clear objective: deterring "The United States military doesn't do pinpricks." the use of chemical weapons, and degrading Assad's capabilities." Such a strike, the President said, would be significant enough to deter Asaad from using chemical weapons again, as well as send a message to the world that the use of chemical weapons won't be tolerated.

"The United States military doesn't do pinpricks," he explained. "Even a limited strike will send a message to Assad that no other nation can deliver. I don't think we should remove another dictator with force. We learned from Iraq that doing so makes us responsible for all that comes next. But a targeted strike can make Assad, or any other dictator, think twice before using chemical weapons."