President Obama, in an address to the nation on Syria, said Tuesday that while he had resisted calls for military action in the country’s civil war, the situation “profoundly changed” after the Assad regime “gassed to death” hundreds of people last month.
The president addressed the nation a little more than a week after declaring he would seek congressional support for a military strike on Syria, in response to a chemical weapons attack on Aug. 21.
But the environment changed rapidly over the past two days, forcing Obama to recalibrate his approach and walk back his “red line” threats, while still leaving open the door to military action. He is now expected to call for a pause in congressional consideration of the use of force.
The game-changer came after Secretary of State John Kerry at first casually floated the idea of Syria turning over its chemical weapons to avert a strike. The Russians then swiftly adopted the idea as a formal proposal, which Syrian government officials now say they will accept, forcing the Obama administration to give it a chance. Kerry will travel to Geneva on Thursday to speak with his Russian counterpart.
Senior Obama administration officials on Tuesday claimed that the White House has been working on such a chemical weapons hand-over plan with the Russians for up to a year. But they acknowledged that Kerry got ahead of the process when he made the off-handed remark on Monday morning.