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August 31, 2013

Syrians brace for U.S. strike

(Continued)

WASHINGTON —

Still, Obama declared more than a year ago that the use of chemical weapons would amount to a “red line” that Assad should not cross. And Obama approved the shipment of small weapons and ammunition to the Syrian rebels after an earlier reported chemical weapons attack, although there is little sign that the equipment has arrived.

With memories of the long Iraq war still fresh, the political crosscurrents have been intense both domestically and overseas.

Dozens of lawmakers, most of them Republican, have signed a letter saying Obama should not take military action without congressional approval, and top leaders of both political parties are urging the president to consult more closely with Congress before giving an order to launch hostilities.

Despite the urgings, there has been little or no discussion about calling Congress back into session to debate the issue. Lawmakers have been on a summer break for nearly a month, and are not due to return to the Capitol until Sept. 9. Obama has not sought a vote of congressional approval for any military action. Neither Republican nor Democratic congressional leaders have challenged his authority to act or sought to have lawmakers called into session before he does.

Senior White House, State Department, Pentagon and intelligence officials met for an hour and half Friday with more than a dozen senators who serve on the Foreign Relations and Armed Services committees, said Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del. He described the discussion as “open and constructive.”

The White House will brief Republican senators in a conference call Saturday at the request of Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., a spokesman for the senator, Don Stewart, said.

Obama’s efforts to put together an international coalition to support military action have been more down than up.

Hollande has endorsed punitive strikes, and told the newspaper Le Monde that the “chemical massacre of Damascus cannot and must not remain unpunished.”

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