President Obama, in a national address originally intended to rally the country behind a strike on Syria, instead used the moment to announce he was hitting pause on military action in order let negotiations over a Russia-backed plan run their course.
“This initiative has the potential to remove the threat of chemical weapons without the use of force,” Obama said Tuesday night.
The president said he has, therefore, “asked the leaders of Congress to postpone a vote to authorize the use of force while we pursue this diplomatic path.
The address from the East Room of the White House marked a dramatic turnaround from Obama announcing, just over a week ago, that he’d decided to seek congressional support for a military strike.
The speech was expected to be Obama’s chance to sell a skeptical public on the plan. Obama did make an impassioned case Tuesday night for military action, should it become necessary, but also found that option in limbo amid late-breaking international developments.
The game-changer came after Secretary of State John Kerry early Monday casually floated the idea of Syria turning over its chemical weapons to avert a strike. The Russians then swiftly adopted the idea as a formal proposal, which Syrian government officials now say they will accept, forcing the Obama administration to give it a chance.
Kerry will travel to Geneva on Thursday to speak with his Russian counterpart.
Obama said Tuesday it’s “too early to tell” if this proposal will work.
Dec. 10, 2013: President Obama is shown taking a picture alongside Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt and British Prime Minister David Cameron, in Johannesburg.
Call it the selfie seen 'round the world.
Among the enduring images from Nelson Mandela's massive memorial service in Johannesburg Tuesday will be one of a jovial President Obama taking a cell phone pic with his seat-mates, Denmark's Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt and Britain's David Cameron.
As the three of them smile for the camera, a stern-looking Michelle Obama can be seen staring straight ahead, hands clasped.