DAMASCUS: A Syrian state-run newspaper on Sunday called President Barack Obama's decision to seek congressional approval before taking military action against Syria "the start of the historic American retreat."
The gloating tone in the front-page article in the Al-Thawra daily followed Obama's unexpected announcement on Saturday that he would ask Congress to support a strike punishing the President Bashar Assad's regime for the alleged use of chemical weapons. The decision marked a stark turnabout for the White House, which had appeared on the verge of ordering U.S. forces to launch a missile attack against Syria.
"Whether the Congress lights the red or green light for an aggression, and whether the prospects of war have been enhanced or faded, President Obama has announced yesterday, by prevaricating or hinting, the start of the historic American retreat," Al-Thawra said.
The paper, which as a government outlet reflects regime thinking, also claimed that Obama's reluctance to take military action stems from his "sense of implicit defeat and the disappearance of his allies." The daily said the American leader worries about limited intervention turning into "an open war has pushed him to seek Congress' consent."
The U.S. Navy moved warships over the past week into the eastern Mediterranean as the Obama administration considered its options. With everything in place, Obama said Saturday that he had decided the U.S. should take military action and that he believes that he has the authority as commander-in-chief to "carry out this military action without specific congressional authorization."
But he added that he believes the U.S. "will be stronger" if he takes his case to Congress for its nod of approval before taking action.
Congress is scheduled to return from a summer break on Sept. 9, and in anticipation of the coming debate, Obama challenged lawmakers to consider "what message will we send if a dictator can gas hundreds of children to death in plain sight and pay no price."
The president's strategy carries enormous risks to his and the nation's credibility, which the administration has argued forcefully is on the line in Syria. Obama long ago said the use of chemical weapons was a "red line" that Assad would not be allowed to cross with impunity.
Britain's prime minister, David Cameron, charted a similar course last week by asking the House of Commons to support military action against Syria, only to suffer a stinging defeat.