In a national address on Tuesday night, President Obama asked Congress to postpone its vote on a resolution approving military strikes in Syria to see if a diplomatic solution could be reached, saying the recent diplomatic initiative "has the potential to remove the threat of chemical weapons without the use of force."
The speech comes 10 days after Obama said he would seek congressional approval for military strikes in a speech from the Rose Garden and one day after John Kerry floated the seemingly extemporaneous diplomatic solution that would require the Syrian government to turn over its stockpile of weapons subject to international verification. The demand was quickly supported by Moscow and then Damascus.
Obama continued to make the case for the possibility of military intervention, saying:
This is not a world we should accept. This is what’s at stake. And that is why, after careful deliberation, I determined that it is in the national security interests of the United States to respond to the Assad regime’s use of chemical weapons through a targeted military strike. The purpose of this strike would be to deter Assad from using chemical weapons, to degrade his regime’s ability to use them, and to make clear to the world that we will not tolerate their use.
The President also acknowledged that the situation in responding to Syria had changed:
However, over the last few days, we’ve seen some encouraging signs, in part because of the credible threat of U.S. military action, as well as constructive talks that I had with President Putin. 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 admitting that it has these weapons and even said they’d join the Chemical Weapons Convention, which prohibits their use.
It’s too early to tell whether this offer will succeed, and any agreement must verify that the Assad regime keeps its commitments, 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.
I have therefore asked the leaders of Congress to postpone a vote to authorize the use of force while we pursue this diplomatic path. I’m sending Secretary of State John Kerry to meet his Russian counterpart on Thursday, and I will continue my own discussions with President Putin.
For more, here’s the text of the full address.