WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama faces a high-stakes week of trying to convince a skeptical Congress and a war-weary American public that they should back him on a military strike against Syria.
His administration came under pressure Saturday from European officials to delay possible action until U.N. inspectors report their findings about an Aug. 21 chemical attack that Obama blames on the Assad government.
Foreign ministers meeting in Lithuania with Secretary of State John Kerry did endorse a “clear and strong response” to an attack they said strongly points to President Bashar Assad’s government. Kerry welcomed the “strong statement about the need for accountability.” But the EU did not specify what an appropriate response would be.
Obama received an update Saturday afternoon from his chief of staff, Denis McDonough, on the administration’s latest outreach to members of Congress, the White House said.
Obama called a bipartisan group of lawmakers on Friday and was expected to make more calls this weekend.
The days ahead represent one of the most intense periods of congressional outreach for Obama, who’s not known for investing heavily in consultations with Capitol Hill.
Kerry held talks in Paris with French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, and said a joint news conference that “this is not the time to be silent spectators to slaughter” and “this is not the time to allow a dictator unfettered use of some of the heinous weapons on earth.”
Fabius said that “punishment is not at odds with a political solution. ... Bashar Assad will not participate in any negotiation as long as he sees himself as invincible.”
Just back from a European trip, Obama is working to salvage a policy whose fate he’s placed in lawmakers’ hands.
His administration’s lobbying campaign culminates Tuesday, the evening before a critical vote is expected in the Senate. Obama will address the nation from the White House to make his case for military action.