On Aug. 31, President Obama announced that he will delay any military strikes against Syria until Congress reconvenes on Sept. 9. He did not indicate his course of action in the event that Congress votes against the use of military force, as the British House of Commons did on Aug. 30. The announcement brought pause to what appeared to be an escalation to imminent military action.
During the president's speech, the shouting of anti-war protesters could be heard. “President Obama, take your hands off Syria!” declared one protester. “In war, the first thing to go is the truth. I think the U.S. should get all the facts straight before we go in,” said another.
Members of Congress appear to be deeply divided on the issue, with establishment Republicans and Democrats favoring intervention while Tea Party and libertarian-leaning Republicans and anti-war Democrats opposing intervention. But even some establishment Republicans appear to be skeptical. Sens. John McCain (R-AZ) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said in a joint statement that they “cannot in good conscience support isolated military strikes in Syria” unless they can “change the momentum on the battlefield.”
On Sept. 1, Secretary of State John Kerry claimed that “[i]n the last 24 hours, we have learned through samples that were provided to the United States and that have now been tested from first responders in East Damascus, and hair samples and blood samples have tested positive for signatures of sarin,” a deadly nerve agent.
Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) challenged Kerry on his assertion that America should launch a strike, saying, “He's famous for saying, 'How can you ask a man to be the last one to die for a mistake?' I would ask John Kerry, 'How can you ask a man to be the first one to die for a mistake?'”
An opinion poll taken by Reuters/Ipsos on Aug. 19-23 found that if Assad's forces used chemicals to attack civilians, 25 percent of Americans would support intervention while 46 percent would oppose it. The poll did not ask about the possibility of rebel forces using chemical weapons, which while unlikely, has not been ruled out.