Before the U.S. president put on the brakes a planned missile attack on Syrian, the path had been cleared for a U.S. assault.
Navy ships were ready to launch missiles immidiately after the order, and U.N. inspectors had left the country after gathering evidence of a chemical weapons attack that took lives of more than 1.400 people including hundreds of children.
But President Obama suffenly decided to receive support of U.S. lawmakers before launching an attack, as polls showed strong opposition from Americans tired of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Approval from the Congress will be given at least 10 days, if it comes at all, reports Reuters.
“Today I’m asking Congress to send a message to the world that we are ready to move as one nation,” Obama announced in the White House Rose Garden.
The president, whose credibility has been called into question for not punishing the Syrian government for previous poison gas attacks, warned the Congress that they must take into consideration the cost of doing nothing in Syria.
“Here’s my question for every member of Congress and every member of the global community: What message will we send if a dictator can gas hundreds of children to death in plain sight and pay no price?” he said.
The majority of the U.S. lawmakers welomed the news but looked in no hurry to come back to Washington early from their summer recess, which lasts until September 9.
“In consultation with the president, we expect the House to consider a measure the week of September 9,” said John Boehner, the top U.S. Republican and speaker of the House of Representatives. “This provides the president time to make his case to Congress and the American people.”
British Prime Minister David Cameron, who hasn’t managed to persuade the British parliament to approve attacks on Syria last week, welcomed Obama’s decision, as did President of France Francois Hollande, with whom Obama spoke on Saturday.
In rebel-held areas of Syria, there was a sense of frustration and disappointment.
“God curse everything,” said an activist in the rebel-held territory of Idlib, Ahmad Kaddour. “We’ve become just a game to people. I think this is going to make the situation worse for those of us living here.”
The news comes a day after the U.S. Secretary of State announced that the U.S. will not forgive the Syrian government for the last week’s “brutal and flagrant” chemical attack.
“This is what Assad did to his own people,” Kerry said. If the US and world allowed “a thug and a murderer like Bashar al-Assad” to get away with gassing his own people, he added, “there will be no end to the test of our resolve and the dangers that will flow from those others who believe that they can do as they will.”
“We do assess that [Assad] is the decision-maker, and that he’s ultimately in charge of deployment,” a senior administration official said in a conference call with reporters on Friday afternoon.
“Our intelligence community has carefully reviewed and re-reviewed the information regarding this attack,” Kerry announced on Friday. “It has done so more than mindful of the Iraq experience, and we will not repeat that moment.”