US President Barack Obama said Saturday that he has decided the United States should launch military strikes against Syria after the American intelligence community claimed Damascus used chemical weapons against foreign-backed militants.
The president, however, said he will seek authorization for an attack from Congress when federal lawmakers return from recess on September 9.
“Over the last several days, we have heard from members of Congress who want their voices to be heard,” Obama said in a Rose Garden address.
He said congressional leaders have agreed to hold a debate on Syria and vote when they return to Capitol Hill.
Obama, however, did not say whether he would use his authority as the commander-in-chief to attack Syria if Congress rejects his call for action.
“While I believe I have the authority to carry out this military action without specific Congressional authorization, I know the country will be stronger if we take this course and our actions will be even more effective,” he said.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, (R-Ky.) welcomed the president’s decision.
“The president’s role as commander-in-chief is always strengthened when he enjoys the expressed support of the Congress,” McConnell said.
The US released an intelligence report on Friday alleging the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad launched a chemical weapons attack on militant strongholds in the suburbs of Damascus last week, killing 1,429 people.
Obama had previously said that the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian government was a “red line” that would provoke a military response from the United States.
Amid opposition from Americans and some members of Congress, Obama reiterated Saturday that any US military involvement would be of “limited duration and scope.”
“This would not be an open-ended intervention,” the president said. “We would not put boots on the ground.”
The odds for an attack increased as United Nations inspectors left Syria ahead of schedule on Saturday, less than a day after Secretary of State John Kerry said the evidence of chemical weapons use by the Assad government was “clear and compelling.”
The UN experts have taken blood and urine samples from victims and soil samples from areas where chemical weapons were alleged to have been used. The samples will be tested in Europe.
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