Maybe we won't launch a strike against Syria after all? President Obama said he is taking seriously the possibility of backing down from a military conflict with Syria if the country gives up its chemical weapons.
In an interview with CNN that aired tonight, Obama was asked about the positive reception from both Russia and Syria to Secretary of State John Kerry's apparently off-the-cuff suggestion that Syrian President Bashar al Assad could avoid an attack by "[turning] over every bit of his weapons to the international community within the next week, without delay." Kerry also said he didn't think that was going to happen.
But in the interview, Obama appeared open to the idea. A deal like that could possibly avert a strike, the president said, "if it's real. It's a positive development with the Russians and the Syrians both make positive gestures toward dealing with these chemical weapons."
Obama's apparent interest in the deal has already resulted in Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid deciding to delay a planned vote on whether or not to approve a strike against Syria.
Obama admitted that a weapons-turnover deal, if it happened, wouldn't "solve the problems of a civil war in Syria." But he insisted that it would represent progress toward the more limited goal that he's focused on, which is pushing back against the use of chemical weapons. "These chemical weapons pose a threat to all nations," he said "and to the United States in particular."
However, President Obama also said that "the notion that Mr. Assad could significantly threaten the United States is just not the case." So why, again, is President Obama so determined to launch a strike against the Assad regime?
This post has been updated.
Update: Obama may be considering a chemical weapons deal to avert strikes. But the use of force is definitely still on the table — even if Congress does not vote to approve strikes. In a separate interview with NBC, Obama wouldn't commit to avoiding an attack if Congress votes against it. "I think it's fair to say that I haven't decided," he said. "I am taking this vote in Congress and what the American people are saying very seriously."