Cameron, who had strongly backed Obama’s pledge to ensure that Syria would face “consequences” for its alleged use of chemical weapons, said he would respect Parliament’s will. Many in his government attributed the vote loss to the legacy of British participation in the 2003 U.S.-led invasion and subsequent occupation of Iraq, based on false claims about weapons of mass destruction.
A statement distributed by the White House said: “The U.S. will continue to consult with the UK government — one of our closest allies and friends. As we’ve said, President Obama’s decision-
making will be guided by what is in the best interests of the United States. He believes that there are core interests at stake for the United States and that countries who violate international norms regarding chemical weapons need to be held accountable.”
Both privately and publicly, administration officials continued to portray Obama as edging closer to a decision to launch a limited cruise-missile strike on Syrian military targets. As a fifth U.S. warship entered the Mediterranean, Obama’s top national security officials briefed congressional leaders on evidence that they say proves that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government killed hundreds of civilians in an Aug. 21 chemical weapons attack outside Damascus.
But as more time has elapsed between the Syrian attack and the much-previewed U.S. retaliation, the window for questions and demands from Congress, international allies and the news media has opened wider.
Nearly 200 House members from both parties have signed letters calling on the president to seek formal congressional approval for military action.
Others agree with Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, who said in an interview that the president has “certain powers even under the War Powers Act that he can use [in] the national interest of security, and he can act.”
But while many would support action against the Syrian regime, Menendez said, “they want [Obama] to come before them and explain it.”
Sen. Bob Corker (Tenn.), the senior Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee, said after Thursday’s administration briefings that he would “support surgical, proportional military strikes given the strong evidence” of chemical weapons use. But Corker said that “whatever limited action is taken should not further commit the U.S. in Syria beyond the current strategy” of supporting moderate opposition forces fighting Assad’s military. He called for continued consultation and said the administration would be “far better off if they seek authorization based upon our national interests, which would provide the kind of public debate and legitimacy that can only come from Congress.”