As the week dragged on, Obama’s international backing began to erode. Russia again opposed action against Syria, this time during private discussions involving the five permanent U.N. Security Council members. NATO declared that the alliance would not launch coordinated military action. And in the strongest blow for the White House, Britain’s Parliament voted against military action, a stunning defeat for Prime Minister David Cameron, a key ally who had expected to join Obama in taking military action.
Despite the setbacks, Obama and his team were prepared to move forward without any authorization from the U.N. and Capitol Hill. But on Friday, aides said the president simply changed his mind. After a long walk around the White House’s grounds with his chief of staff, Obama summoned some of his top aides and told them he now wanted to hold off on launching an attack until Congress had its say.
In shifting the debate to Capitol Hill, Obama is ensuring that a military strike will be pushed off for at least another week. Lawmakers aren’t due back from their summer recess until Sept. 9. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said he expected the House to consider the force resolution that week. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said he, too, will hold a vote no later than the week of Sept. 9, with public hearings beginning next week.
Even before Congress decides, Obama will have to directly confront the international implications of his decision. He’s set to travel abroad next week for a visit to Sweden and a meeting of world leaders in St. Petersburg, Russia.
There, he'll come face-to-face with Russian President Vladimir Putin, one of Assad’s strongest supporters. Putin, in a pointed jab, made a plaintive plea for Obama to take more time to consider the full implications of a strike on Syria, appealing, he said, not to another world leader, but to a Nobel Peace laureate.
Julie Pace has covered the White House for The Associated Press since 2009. Follow Pace at http://twitter.com/jpaceDC