President Barack Obama is gearing up to deliver an address to the nation Tuesday night — and the circumstances surrounding it couldn’t be more different than when it was originally scheduled.
If you can remember, all the way back to last Friday, Obama announced his address to the nation during a press conference at the conclusion of the G20 summit in St. Petersburg.
Facing brutal whip counts in both chambers of Congress, Obama decided to embark on a furious media-driven blitz to sell his plan of action in Syria to Congress and to the public.
On Saturday, the White House announced that Obama would participate in six television interviews.
In the last four days — and even the last four hours — a lot has changed. Here’s a brief overview — and, as a warning, a lot of it still doesn’t completely make sense:
- First, Secretary of State John Kerry made what appeared to be an offhand remark in London early Monday, suggesting that Syria could potentially avoid a U.S. attack if it handed over “every single bit of his chemical weapons” to the international community in the next week.
- The State Department walked back the remarks; spokeswoman Marie Harf called them “hypothetical” and “a rhetorical statement about a scenario that we find highly unlikely.”
- Nevertheless, Russia immediately jumped on the offer. “If the establishment of international control over chemical weapons in that country would allow avoiding strikes, we will immediately start working with Damascus,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said.
- Syria’s foreign minister then said it “welcomed” the Russia-backed proposal.
- With glimmers of a diplomatic solution, the White House began taking credit for the position Kerry had apparently inadvertently created and that it had disparaged, saying it only happened with the threat of U.S. military action.
- Obama said in interviews Monday night that he would call off a U.S. strike if the Russia-Syria plan to turn over control of Syria’s chemical weapons was serious.
- Obama also said, in a complete flip from the administration’s previous position, that he had spoken with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the G20 summit last week about the plan.
- As Obama spoke Monday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid canceled a crucial test vote scheduled for Wednesday on a Syrian strike. Obama said to not expect votes anytime soon, to allow diplomacy to work its course.
- Early on Tuesday, Syria Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem said that the country had officially agreed to the Russian-led plan regarding its chemical weapons.
- Diplomacy ran into trouble later Tuesday. France, the U.K., and the U.S. said they would explore Russia’s plan, but that discussions would include the possibility of a U.N. Security Council resolution. That was not to Russia’s liking. It would force Syria to publicly admit its chemical-weapons stockpile, while setting a timeframe for turning over those weapons to international control.
- Russian President Vladimir Putin said that the U.S. would have to first call off any strikes for Syria to cede control of its chemical weapons.
- Not an hour after Putin’s comments, al-Moallem said that Syria is ready to disclose the location of chemical weapons, as well as halt their production and sign and ratify the and ratify the Chemical Weapons Convention.
- The State Department announced that Kerry is travelling to Geneva, Switzerland, on Thursday to meet with Lavrov about the proposal.
Got all that?
It’s anyone’s guess what Obama will say Tuesday night, but the best bet is that he will express cautious optimism toward the diplomatic solution, even though many, including himself, are sceptical about the actors involved. He’ll also likely take advantage of that scepticism to push military action if necessary.
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