Faced with mounting defections in Congress and American public opinion breaking hard against him, President Obama grasped for a lifeline thrown to him by Russian President Vladimir Putin Monday, throwing the entire Syria debate in Washington into deeper chaos.
Most Americans don't want Obama's war
When Pew first asked Americans about Obama's planned military strikes Aug. 29, just 48 percent opposed the idea. When they asked again Sept. 4, 63 percent did.
Congress does not want Obama's war
With calls and emails to Capitol Hill running overwhelmingly against military strikes, members of both parties began abandoning Obama in droves Monday.
On the Democratic side, Sens. Ben Cardin of Maryland and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota announced their opposition the plan, and on the Republican side, Sens. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, Dick Hoeven of North Dakota and Johnny Isakson of Georgia announced their opposition as well. House lawmakers in both parties are also breaking strongly against Obama's Syria resolution.
Siberian Express escape
Asked at a press conference in London Monday if there were anything Syrian dictator Bashar Assad could do to escape bombing, Secretary of State John Kerry said, "Sure, he could turn over every single bit of his chemical weapons to the international community in the next week."
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov quickly seized on Kerry's offer, saying his country would be happy to work with its client state, Syria, to secure its chemical weapons.
Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moualem, who also just happened to be in Moscow at the time, also voiced approval, saying, "Syria welcomes the Russian proposal out of concern for the lives of the Syrian people, the security of our country and because it believes in the wisdom of the Russian leadership that seeks to avert American aggression against our people."
Obama's plan all along
Desperate to avoid humiliation in Congress, Obama immediately hailed the Russian offer, telling NBC News, "This could potentially be a significant breakthrough." And Obama told Fox News, "This is something that is not new. I’ve been discussing this with President [Vladimir] Putin for some time now."
Washington on hold
Despite still insisting he has the votes for passage, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., announced Monday he would delay the vote he had previously scheduled for Wednesday on Obama's Syria resolution.
"What we need to do is make sure the president has the opportunity to speak to all 100 senators and all 300 million American people before we do this," Reid said.
But in his Oval Office address Tuesday night, it appears Obama will still press for a vote in Congress authorizing the use of force. He will argue that Syria only agreed to turn over its weapons after he threatened to use force, so that now he needs a blank check from Congress to strengthen his hand in negotiating a final deal with Russia and Syria.
What Putin wanted all along
If Obama does sign on to an agreement with Russia on Syrian chemical weapons, it will be a huge victory for the Kremlin. World chess champion and chairman of the Human Rights Foundation Gary Kasparov explained on Twitter, "Putin always wanted status quo in Syria. His client Assad in power, killing all opposition. Now he may get just that plus credit for a deal!"
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