Politics
President Barack Obama talks about the crisis in Syria to media gathered in the Rose Garden of the White House as Vice President Joe Biden looks on from behind, Saturday, Aug. 31, 2013, in Washington. Delaying what had loomed as an imminent strike on Syria for its alleged use of chemical weapons, Obama announced Saturday that he wanted to put the matter before Congress first. He said, "I know that the country will be stronger if we take this course and our actions will be even more effective." His remarks were televised live in the United States as well as on Syrian state television with translation.  (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Obama blitzing D.C. prior to Senate Syria vote

Neil Munro
White House Correspondent

President Barack Obama is blitzing senators and American voters prior to the Senate’s Tuesday vote on his still-secret plan for punishing the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad for firing nerve gas into rebel-held neighborhoods.

On Sunday evening, Obama dropped into a meeting held by Vice President Joe Biden with several swing-voting GOP senators, including Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Susan Collins of Maine, Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, Bob Corker Tennessee, Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire and Deb Fischer of Nebraska, according to the White House. Obama stayed for roughly 80 minutes.

On Monday, Obama will do face-to-face interviews with six networks, where reporters might prod him to outline the scope and limits of his planned aerial intervention into Syria’s civil war.

His deputies are also scheduled to make the case for action Monday and Tuesday. National Security Advisor Susan Rice, for example, will give a speech at the New America Foundation.

Vice President Joe Biden, however, is slated to visit Baltimore, where he is expected to tout a $10 million plan to dredge a deeper channel for ships.

On Tuesday, Obama will visit Democrats in the Senate before the critical vote, while his deputies will provide senators with last-minute classified briefings about who launched the nerve gas attack Aug. 21, one year after Obama declared such attacks would violate a “red line.”

On Tuesday evening, Obama is slated to give a national address in the face of polls that show broad public opposition to further involvement in Syria’s complex civil war.

Even if he wins a majority in the Senate, Obama will face an even more difficult task persuading Democratic and Republican legislators in the House to back his unknown plan.

The Syria war has reportedly killed 100,000 people. It was caused by sectarian, ethnic and ideological splits, and is being fueled by various outside rival powers, such as Iran, Russia, Turkey and Saudi Arabia.

The U.S. is already providing military aid to some rebels factions which fight alongside al-Qaida affiliates in a temporary alliance.

So far, however, there’s little reliable information about the scale and consequences of Obama’s planned red line aerial offensive.

That’s important, because legislators are concerned that any attack could help radical Muslim groups — including forces affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood and al-Qaida — to seize control of Syria’s armory of chemical weapons for use against Israel, Europe and the United States.

Any takeover could also allow the Muslim groups to force millions of Arab Christians out of Syria, where they have lived for 2,000 years, some 600 years prior to the Muslim invasion in the 630s.