The next week will be critical in the debate over how to respond to the use of chemical weapons in Syria. First, the Arab League will hold a conference, then Obama will fly to St. Peterburg for the G20.
A Free Syrian Army fighter watches U.S. President Barack Obama’s speech with his family in Ghouta, Damascus August 31, 2013. (Photo by Mohamed Abdullah/Reuters)
Updated 4:55 PM
President Obama’s announcement Saturday that he would seek the approval of Congress before taking military action against the Syrian government in response to its suspected use chemical weapons against its own people, extended the timeline for responding to the crisis.
Here’s what to expect in the days ahead:
September 1: Foreign ministers from the Arab League will meet in Cairo to discuss the situation in Syria. A meeting had been scheduled for Tuesday but was moved up after a U.S. military strike seemed imminent.
September 1: House members will be briefed on Syria at 2 PM on Capitol Hill. Senators were briefed Saturday afternoon in phone calls to Democrats and Republicans.
September 1: The United Nations chemical weapons inspection team looking into the suspected August 21 chemical weapons attack will begin “collating” soil samples it collected while in Syria. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon is also scheduled to speak with Dr. Ake Sellstrom, the head of the UN chemical weapons investigation team. There will be another briefing with the press after that call. At a press conference Saturday, UN spokesman Martin Nesirky said that there is no timeline for the inspectors to issue a full report. President Obama said during his remarks in the Rose Garden Saturday that he did not feel the need to wait for the report and that he felt comfortable proceeding with military action without the approval of the UN Security Council.
September 5-6: The G20 Leaders Summit is scheduled to take place in St. Petersburg, Russia. White House Press Secretary Jay Carney declined to answer questions Monday about whether Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin would meet privately. Putin has been sharply critical of Obama over the United States’ statements about the alleged use of chemical weapons by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, calling them “nonsense.” Russia is a longtime ally of the Assad government.
September 9: Congress returns from its five week recess. House Speaker John Boehner released a statement Saturday saying he expected the House to consider a measure seeking authorization for military action at that time. Currently Congress is scheduled to be in session for only nine days this month, from the 9-12, the 17-20, and the 30 of September. Many members of both houses had called on the President to get Congressional authorization for the use of military force in the days following the August 21 attack.