- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 1, 2013

A Syrian state-run newspaper published a front-page article Sunday declaring President Obama’s decision to wait for congressional authorization to launch any military strikes a signal of “retreat” by the United States.

After more than a week of deliberation, Mr. Obama said Saturday that he will wait on Congress to punish Syria for a chemical weapons attack, even though he said a military strike is needed. Mr. Obama said the country will be stronger by taking that course, but the Al-Thawra daily claimed just the opposite.

“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 AP.

Mr. Obama on Saturday sent a letter to congressional leaders and draft legislation on the Authorization for the Use of U.S. Armed Forces (AUMF) in connection to the conflict in Syria, calling the Aug. 21 attack carried out in Damascus that killed more than 1,000 Syrians “flagrant actions” “in violation of international norms and the laws of war.” The draft resolution authorizes Mr. Obama to use the country’s armed forces “as he determines to be necessary and appropriate in connection with the use of chemical weapons or other weapons of mass destruction in the conflict in Syria[.]”

British Prime Minister David Cameron tweeted his support for Mr. Obama’s decision after Parliament last week rejected supporting military action pending the findings of United Nations weapons inspectors.

House Republican leaders said they’ll wait until the end of their five-week summer vacation, which is scheduled to last another week, before coming back to Washington to take up the resolution authorizing the president to strike at Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime.

SEE ALSO: John Kerry: Evidence of nerve agent sarin in Syria

The GOP leaders said the intervening week will give Mr. Obama the chance to make a stronger case than he has laid out so far.

“We are glad the president is seeking authorization for any military action in Syria in response to serious, substantive questions being raised,” the GOP leadership said in a statement. “In consultation with the president, we expect the House to consider a measure the week of September 9th.”

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, meanwhile, said in a statement late Saturday that the use of military force against Syria is “justified and necessary,” and that the United States “has a moral as well as a national security interest in defending innocent lives against such atrocities, and in enforcing international norms such as the prohibition against the use of chemical weapons.”

“Assad must be held accountable for his heinous acts, and the world looks to us for leadership,” Mr. Reid, Nevada Democrat, said.

Sen. Robert Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat who is Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman, plans to hold a hearing with administration officials on Tuesday, and the full Senate plans to hold a vote “no later than” the week of Sept. 9, Mr. Reid said.

Sen. Angus King, Maine independent, said on MSNBC on Sunday that “the ghost of Iraq” is haunting the debate.

SEE ALSO: Some GOP lawmakers skeptical Congress will OK military force in Syria

“I can tell you, the people of Maine absolutely have no appetite in getting involved in another war in the Middle East,” said Mr. King, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Mr. King, however, said Mr. Obama is not asking to inject himself into the ongoing Syrian civil war, but rather that the issue is dealing with the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime.

He also pointed out that any action could portend tremendous consequences for the rest of the region, including countries such as Israel and Iran.

“It is the most complex policy question I think I’ve ever encountered,” he said.

• David Sherfinski can be reached at dsherfinski@washingtontimes.com.

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