Top News: With Congress back in Washington, the Obama administration will launch an all-out lobbying blitz this week to secure congressional support for a military intervention in Syria, a proposal that has at best tepid support on the Hill and currently lacks the votes to gain approval.
On Tuesday, President Obama will address the nation from the White House, but prior to then, Obama and his lieutenants plan to press their case both privately and in public. On Monday, Obama will sit for a series of television interviews, and with Congress back from its five-week recess, his officials will continue to brief members on last month's chemical weapons attack and the administration's case for launching punitive strikes against the Bashar al-Assad regime.
On Sunday, White House Chief of Staff Dennis McDonough previewed the White House's case and the regional context within which the administration is placing its plans for a strike. "The question now is, for Congress to resolve this week is: Are there consequences for a dictator who would have used those weapons to gas to death hundreds of children?" McDonough asked during an appearance on "Fox News Sunday." "The answer to that question . . . will be followed closely in Damascus, but will also be followed closely in Tehran, among Lebanese Hezbollah, and others. So, this is a very important week."
While congressional observers say the Senate may be willing to authorize military action against Syria, the White House faces an uphill battle in the House, where recalcitrant members on the left and right remain hesitant to sign off on a strike. "It's an open question today what the House would do," Rep. Chris Van Hollen, who supports limited military action, told the Washington Post. "The real challenge has been that members of Congress are scattered all over the country."
As the White House continues to struggle to build a coalition in Congress, its efforts to support international backing saw mixed results over the weekend. Secretary of State John Kerry said Sunday that Saudi Arabia backs American military action in Syria, and Qatar signed on to a statement that endorses a "strong international response" to Assad's use of chemical weapons. On Saturday, the European Union issued a similarly worded statement that did not mention a military response and called for any response to wait on a report by U.N. chemical weapons inspectors. Meanwhile, Obama's staunchest military ally, French President Francois Hollande finds himself under siege at home, where about two-thirds of his countrymen are opposed to a strike and where there are growing calls to put the strike to a vote before the country's legislature.
Separately, Assad said in an interview with CBS's Charlie Rose that the United States and its allies should "expect every action" in response to a strike on Syria.
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