BOISE -- Tuesday night, President Barack Obama addressed the American people on the developing situation in Syria. The president said they are now pursuing diplomatic options, but are still ready to strike, if necessary.
In late August, the government says President Bashar al-Assad of Syria used chemical weapons against his own people. One of the major changes to the situation is Assad has admitted his regime has chemical weapons. Obama had asked Congress to vote to authorize the use of the U.S. Military against the Assad regime.
"I determined that it is in the national security interest of the United States to respond to the Assad regime's use of chemical weapons through a targeted military strike," said Obama.
That congressional vote has now been postponed, as the United States explores new diplomatic options.
"The Russian government has indicated a willingness to join with the international community in pushing Assad to give up his chemical weapons," said Obama.
Dr. David Adler has written books and scholarly articles on the U.S. Constitution and American foreign policy. He attributes this change, in part, to the threat of U.S. military action.
"The United States is carrying the big stick, threatening still, as President Obama said, that he's willing to inflict military strikes against Syria if diplomacy fails," said Adler. "If in fact, Syria does not cooperate, if it does not meet the proposal to turn over its chemical weapons, then I think that the President, as he pointed out, is willing to use force against Syria."
Adler said the U.S. has successfully used diplomacy in similar situations in the past. "I think that what makes this threat credible is the fact that the U.S. appears ready to use its military power, and that obviously has had some significant impact on President Assad."
Also significant, Adler said, is the United States' new partner in bringing this all about.
"The United States and Russia will, in fact, be working together to bring Assad to the table to relinquish these weapons at a time when the relations between the two have been very, very cold," Adler said. "But the reality is that both Moscow and Washington have a mutual interest here. Neither wants those horrific weapons to be scattered and into the hands of rebels of terrorists. So that is what is enabling Putin and Obama to come together."
Idaho's congressional leaders weighed in shortly after the President's speech.
U.S. Senator Jim Risch of Idaho serves on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and has been against military strikes in Syria from the beginning. Tuesday night, he said he didn't think the President's speech changed the minds of Americans, and also says President Obama didn't answer the concerns he has.
"As this has gone on my resolve has become stronger that this could be a real catastrophe if Assad fell and the weapons fell into the hands of al-Qaeda and some of the other people who make up the opposition," said Senator Risch.
U.S. Senator Mike Crapo of Idaho issued the following statement:
"The United States should engage in military strikes against another nation only when our national security requires it, after other options have been ruled out," Crapo said. "And, when our national security interests justify military action against another nation, the action should be carefully designed and effectively implemented to achieve our security related objectives. The national security interest necessary to justify this intervention has not yet been sufficiently shown. And the limited, narrow response being proposed is more likely to harm, rather than protect our security interests.
"The prospect of a negotiated resolution of this matter has been raised, involving Syria agreeing to join the 189 nations of the world who have signed the Chemical Weapons Convention. Of course, we should pursue this option, but let's not forget with whom we are dealing. Any such resolution must necessarily involve Syria disclosing all of its chemical weapons, immediately allowing their removal and destruction and allowing ongoing inspections to assure compliance. Such an agreement must be prompt, binding, verifiable and subject to predetermined sanctions for noncompliance."
Crapo added, "I will continue to engage in this debate in the Senate, review the intelligence material and listen to Idahoans before casting any vote on this matter."