Perhaps when Congress returns and approves, which won’t be until after September 9th. But he reserves the right to do it before:
Before revealing he would seek approval from Congress, the President made clear that “we are prepared to strike whenever we choose.”
Strikes would be “effective tomorrow or next week or one month from now,” Obama said, adding that he is “prepared to give that order.”
Since this seems to be merely a symbolic gesture, I suppose it doesn’t matter how telegraphed it is, or when it occurs. Actually, for symbolic gestures, perhaps the more telegraphed and delayed the better, in order to build apprehension.
I think what happened is that President Obama may have been surprised by the relative unpopularity of his initial announcement that he might be about to attack Syria. He hadn’t intended to seek Congress’s approval, but he may have been convinced that it was necessary to win over the American people (although such considerations don’t often stop him).
This is interesting as well:
Also on Saturday, U.N. chemical weapons inspectors arrived in the Netherlands, where samples they collected in Syria will be evaluated in laboratories. The goal will be to check them for traces of poison gas that may have been unleashed in an Aug. 21 bombardment of a Damascus suburb.
U.N. spokesman Martin Nesirky said Saturday “whatever can will be done” to speedup the analysis, but he gave no timeline for a report on the results…
The experts took with them blood and urine samples from victims as well as soil samples from the affected areas for examination in laboratories in Europe.
Considering it’s the UN, my guess is that it will take quite a while. I wonder, if the report were to indicate that chemical weapons were not used, whether Obama would back off (my guess, however, is that the inspectors will find that they were, although I would not be completely shocked either if the opposite occurred).
The parallels between Syria now and Iraq in 2002-2003 is ironic, including the need to try to present the evidence of weapons of mass destruction. The differences are ironic, too, because there were many additional reasons to attack Saddam Hussein besides WMDs—most prominent among them his continued and repeated defiance of the UN inspections that had been imposed on him as a condition of the end of the Gulf War.
Despite this—and the fact that Saddam Hussein had also used chemical weapons against his own people, in 1988 on a much larger scale—Obama was opposed to attacking Iraq, although he was a mere state legislator rather than US senator at the time. Another ironic difference between the Iraq buildup and the present Syria one was, of course, that unlike Obama, Bush actually got the serious cooperation of a number of countries in the international community.
So, what will Congress do? Obama may have called their bluff. If they agree, they will be partially responsible for the result of any action he takes. If they disagree, and Assad continues his behavior, they will be responsible for allowing that to happen and Obama can say “Ah, if only you’d let me do it, none of this terrible stuff would have happened.”