President Barack Obama said in an address to the nation that he had asked Congress to postpone a vote on authorizing military action against Syria to give a Russian diplomatic proposal to destroy the Arab country's chemical weapons a chance to succeed.
"Meanwhile, I've ordered our military to maintain their current posture to keep the pressure on Assad, and to be in a position to respond if diplomacy fails," Obama said in his televised address on Tuesday night.
The president tried to make the case for military action against Syria's Assad regime, but he acknowledged that Americans were tired of war in the wake of the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts.
"Many of you have asked, won't this put us on a slippery slope to another war? One man wrote to me that we are 'still recovering from our involvement in Iraq.' A veteran put it more bluntly: 'This nation is sick and tired of war,'" Obama said.
"My answer is simple: I will not put American boots on the ground in Syria. I will not pursue an open-ended action like Iraq or Afghanistan. I will not pursue a prolonged air campaign like Libya or Kosovo. This would be a targeted strike to achieve a clear objective: deterring the use of chemical weapons, and degrading Assad's capabilities," Obama said.
The United States and Syria's opposition say President Bashar al-Assad's forces killed more than 1,400 people on Aug. 21 in a chemical weapons attack near Damascus, an accusation vehemently denied by the Syrian government.
The U.S. goal is to "deter Assad from using chemical weapons, to degrade his regime's ability to use them, and to make clear to the world that we will not tolerate their use," Obama said.
Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem said Tuesday that the Assad regime had accepted a proposal by Russia under which it would hand over its chemical weapons to the international community and its stockpiles would be destroyed.
Obama said he was willing to give the diplomatic initiative crafted by Russian President Vladimir Putin's administration a chance to succeed.
"I have, therefore, asked the leaders of Congress to postpone a vote to authorize the use of force while we pursue this diplomatic path. I'm sending Secretary of State John Kerry to meet his Russian counterpart on Thursday, and I will continue my own discussions with President Putin," Obama said.
Syria's civil war has claimed some 100,000 lives since March 2011. EFE