Syria strike hits hurdle, allies voice concern


The Obama administration’s aggressive push to punish the Assad regime for an alleged chemical weapons attack last week was running into hurdles on Thursday, as Congress demanded a say in the decision and international support for swift action began to fray.

After the U.S. failed to win support for an anti-Assad resolution before the U.N. Security Council on Wednesday, President Obama’s efforts were dealt another blow as allies France and Britain signaled they would wait until U.N. investigators finish before deciding the next step.

British Prime Minister David Cameron backed off his goal of holding a swift, single vote in Parliament on Thursday, allowing for a second vote possibly next week.

As the debate got underway in London, Cameron argued that an attack on Syria in response to chemical weapons use would be legal. Met with skepticism in Parliament, though, Cameron said the motion he’s put forward would require Britain to wait until U.N. weapons inspectors report their findings, until “further action” is taken at the U.N., and until another vote is held in Parliament.

The delay in London could prevent Obama from taking any action, as his administration has said it will not act unilaterally on Syria. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says inspectors are leaving the country on Saturday, meaning any report from them is not likely until next week at the earliest.

But Obama is facing his own set of problems in Washington, where lawmakers currently on summer recess are beginning to voice serious consternation about the possibility of a missile strike.

“It is essential that you provide a clear, unambiguous explanation of how military action — which is a means, not a policy — will secure U.S. objectives and how it fits into your overall policy,” House Speaker John Boehner wrote in a letter to the president on Wednesday.

The administration plans to brief top lawmakers on Thursday, as the military continues to prepare for a possible strike. A fifth Navy Destroyer was sent into the eastern Mediterranean on Thursday.

One senior Hill aide said there was a concern that launching missiles at Syria could simply be a case of “fire and forget.” Further, lawmakers are worried about the potential consequences of a bombing mission. And they want to know the endgame.

“We don’t employ the U.S. military just to make a point,” groused one congressional source who asked not to be identified.

In an interview with PBS on Wednesday, Obama bluntly declared that the Syrian government carried out a chemical weapons attack last week.

He suggested a “shot across the bow” for Syria could be in the interest of U.S. national security.

But while the administration is expected to release intelligence findings regarding last week’s attack as early as Thursday, the Associated Press reported that officials say that intelligence is “not a slam dunk.”

If there is even a shred of doubt that Assad and his top lieutenants ordered the strike last week, Obama is likely to face even more questions from Congress during briefings on Thursday. Many lawmakers are already demanding that he seek a formal vote before moving ahead with any strikes.

Meanwhile, battle lines are being drawing in the international community. After Russia refused to sign on to a Britain-drafted resolution before the U.N. Security Council on Wednesday, Reuters reports that Russia is sending two warships to the Mediterranean Sea, where the U.S. has also positioned ships. The Navy has also boosted its presence in the Persian Gulf, adding one more aircraft carrier.

Fox News’ Chad Pergram contributed to this report.

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