Washington/London: President Barack Obama on Sunday tried to rally Congressional support for possible US military action against Syria ahead of a vote expected over the issue as his top diplomat launched parallel efforts to drum up support from key European allies and Arab leaders.
Obama administration officials are struggling to assuage lawmakers who are hearing from war-weary constituents that say they should reject the President’s call for limited military action in Syria.
Just back from a European trip in which he failed to forge a consensus among global leaders, Obama launched a campaign on radio and television to try to convince a skeptical US public and Congress.
Making a strong pitch for a “limited” military strike against the Syrian regime, Obama said America cannot “turn a blind eye” to the images emerging from the country.
The president will give interviews with CNN, PBS, Fox, NBC, ABC and CBS tomorrow as he presses his case, a White House official said.
On Tuesday, Obama will address the American people on this crisis.
Obama had said that he had expected skepticism from the public and from lawmakers, and that he had anticipated it would be “a heavy lift” to win approval for military action from Congress.
He asked Americans to back him in launching an attack on Syria, as diplomatic pressure grew on the US to wait for a UN report expected in a week’s time before beginning military action.
“We cannot turn a blind eye to images like the ones we’ve seen out of Syria,” Obama said in his weekly address.
“We can’t ignore chemical weapons attacks like this one, even if they happen halfway around the world. And that’s why I call on Members of Congress, from both parties, to come together and stand up for the kind of world we want to live in, the kind of world we want to leave our children and future generations,” he said.
Senate Intelligence Committee released 13 videos showing images of the chemical attack in Syria as part of the White House’ efforts to press for the case. Some of the graphic images of the chemical attack have been shown in the videos.
Meanwhile, Secretary of State John Kerry stepped up his efforts to persue Europens allies. He is set to meet Arab leaders before heading to the UK as part of a European tour aimed at increasing support for action against Syria.
Kerry will meet Arab leaders in Paris. Those talks initially were to focus on the latest Middle East peace initiative, but Syria is now expected to be on the agenda, the officials said.
Kerry will talk to the Arabs “about things where they may be helpful, and again, also building support within the international community for a response from the international community,” one of the officials said.
In all of the meetings Kerry is expected to work to “coordinate a political response” on Syria, but not expected to go into the details about particular roles countries could play as part of any military action, an official said.
From Paris, Kerry will travel to London where he will meet the Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas and British Foreign Secretary William Hague.
He will hold talks with Hague in the wake of the vote by British MPs against the action on Syria.
Kerry, speaking in Paris, said the number of countries prepared to take military action against Syria is now “in the double digits”.
France is the only nation so far to commit to military action against Syria alongside the United States.
“We have more countries prepared to take military action than we actually could use in the kind of military action being contemplated,” he said.
Kerry held talks with 28 EU foreign ministers in the Lithuanian capital Vilnius yesterday before travelling to Paris.
But in a joint statement member states stopped short of endorsing any US-led strike, stressing “the need to move forward with addressing the Syrian crisis through the UN process”.
Kerry said the world should not be “spectators to slaughter”, but said President Obama had not yet decided whether to wait for the UN inspection report before taking action.
The US accuses Assad’s forces of killing 1,429 people in a sarin gas attack on 21 August.
Repeating a phrase he used earlier in the week, Kerry said the international community was facing a “Munich moment” – a reference to the policy of appeasement that failed to stop Nazi Germany in the 1930s.