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Obama delays vote while pursuing diplomacy

BY BRENT GRIFFITHS | SEPTEMBER 11, 2013 5:00 AM

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A proposed limited military strike in Syria is on hold while the United States attempts to reach a diplomatic solution with Russia, President Obama announced Tuesday evening in an address to the nation.

“It’s too early to tell whether this offer will succeed, and any agreement must verify that the Assad regime keeps its commitments, but this initiative has the potential to remove the threat of chemical weapons without the use of force, particularly because Russia is one of Assad’s strongest allies,” he said.

Obama’s openness to Russia’s proposal means Congress will not vote on military action for now. Russia’s proposal is to have Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad turn over his chemical weapons to international control to safely be destroyed.

However, the president was clear that if the proposal fails, the U.S. military would remain ready to act.

“… I’ve ordered our military to maintain its current posture to keep the pressure on Assad and to be in a position to respond if diplomacy fails,” he said.

Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said Iowans “strongly oppose military action,” but expressed interest in a diplomatic solution.

“… [T]he Russian proposal to force Assad to turn over chemical weapons to international monitors presents a possible alternative,” he said in a statement. “Military action should be the last resort, so this diplomatic offer, if credible and enforceable, needs to be considered.”

One political science expert said the “diplomatic pause” gives the administration a chance to complete a plan for military attacks as well as avoid a potentially embarrassing vote — due to the lack of support from members of both parties.

“At least up until today or yesterday, it didn’t look like Obama was going to get the support he wants,” said Tim Hagle, a University of Iowa associate professor of political science. “Usually, you expect members of the president’s party to support him on most issues, maybe grumble a little bit or roll your eyes for something you don’t like … but liberal Democrats and Republicans did not want to give in on military action.”

Rep Dave Loebsack, D-Iowa, whose district includes Iowa City, feels the administration is moving too fast on Syria. He said he remains open to diplomatic action but at this point could not support military action.

“At this point, I cannot support the use of unilateral U.S. military force in Syria,” he said in a statement. “Too many pieces of the puzzle are left on the table to authorize such a dramatic step.”

Hagle said Obama did accomplish some things with his speech, including drawing the connection from Syria to America’s national security by demonstrating not only what Assad might do if America fails to respond but possibly spill over into Turkey, Jordan, and Israel. Obama also warned inaction could embolden Iran to defy international law by building a nuclear weapon.


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