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Obama's Syria struggle - not enough political support in US

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Obama's Syria struggle - not enough political support in US


The White House is increasingly isolated in the face of mounting opposition to military intervention against the Assad regime in Syria. According to a Reuters Ipsos poll conducted last week, 56 percent of Americans are not in favour, while just 19 percent support President Obama in the matter.

He is scheduled to make a national address this Tuesday in a further push to sway a public that remains unconvinced by his arguments.

This is what he has been insisting: “What we’re not talking about is an open-ended intervention. This would not be another Iraq or Afghanistan. There would be no American boots on the ground. Any action we take would be limited, both in time and scope – designed to deter the Syrian government from gassing its own people again and to degrade its ability to do so.”

Obama is also having a tough time persuading members of Congress of both parties, who hold strong objections, such as Texas Republican Michael McCaul, who said: “Once we’re in, we’re in. And once we hit, this is an act of war. Little wars start big wars. We have to remember that. And I think we have to be very cautious. And the other thing I’m very concerned David [the Representative’s interlocutor in a television interview] – you haven’t mentioned [this] in the programme yet – is: who are we supporting in this war? We are supporting a rebel faction, the rebel cause, that has now been infiltrated and hijacked by many Al Qaeda factions.”

According to The Washington Post newspaper, only one in every four Senators – 25 – would vote for intervention, 17 against; the rest, 58, are still undecided. Obama also has only 25 members behind him in the House of Representatives, where 111 are saying ‘no’ and 299 haven’t publicly made up their minds.

One year ago in August, the president talked about any use of chemical weapons in Syria being a red line that must not be crossed, on pain of US punitive force otherwise. Now Obama is being perceived as politically hamstrung by his own words.

Luke Coffey, a US Heritage Foundation expert on Middle Eastern issues, said: “I think what we are seeing now is, you know, President Obama has painted himself into a corner in terms of his red line, and now he is realizing that actually, you know, he doesn’t have much support reinforcing his red line.”

Observers are suggesting the president ought to have spent months by now building up support for his Syrian red line position in Congress.

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