Obama to address nation on Syria next week, amid struggle to gain support

Credit: Frank Augstein/AP Photo

(FOX NEWS) -- Possibly seeing the specter of defeat starting to hang over his decision to seek congressional backing for a Syria strike, President Obama announced on Friday that he plans to make his case to the American people next week from the White House.

Obama, speaking toward the close of the G-20 summit in Russia, reiterated that the Assad regime's alleged use of chemical weapons last month is a "threat to global peace and security" and must be met with a military response. He said he plans to address the American people from the White House on Tuesday.

"I will make the best case that I can to the American people as well as to the international community to take necessary and appropriate action," Obama said.

The decision comes as his team struggles to win rank-and-file support in the House - with even top ally Nancy Pelosi saying she's not sure she can round up a majority of her caucus. The president was not doing much better 5,000 miles away, seemingly running into a wall -- and Vladimir Putin -- during his brief visit to St. Petersburg, Russia, for the G-20 summit as he tries to sway allies to back his plan. Still, at the close of the summit, 11 nations including the U.S. released a statement condemning the use of chemical weapons and calling for a "strong international response."

Obama said he spoke with Putin, and had a "candid and constructive conversation," on the "margins" of the summit. But having already abandoned seeking support through the U.N. Security Council, Obama is focusing more on U.S. lawmakers and voters.

"I knew this was going to be a heavy lift," Obama conceded, adding that given the last decade of war, any hint of "further military entanglements in the Middle East" is viewed with suspicion.

"I was elected to end wars, not start them," he said. But he stressed that any U.S. involvement in Syria would be "limited." The president said that if the Rwandan genocide were happening now, "it probably wouldn't poll real well" either.

For now, U.S. lawmakers say their constituents are overwhelmingly against military action in Syria - a fact they weigh heavily as they consider how to vote.

Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., one of the biggest advocates for military action on the Hill, acknowledged in an interview with Fox News that he's not at all certain there are 218 votes in the House for the resolution to pass. Informal tallies show only a few dozen members of the House have come out for military action.

"It is up to the president to be much more forceful and not seem like he is trying to pass the buck on to someone else," King said.

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi also said in an interview with Time that she's not sure she can get a majority of her caucus on board.

Opposition to, and support for, a military strike cuts across party lines. Reluctant House members may be waiting to see what the Senate does before making up their minds. The full Senate begins considering the use-of-force resolution on Friday, with possible votes next week. But even this week's successful committee vote, which sent the resolution to the full Senate, exposed deep divisions - the measure passed on a narrow 10-7 split.

Obama and his team are lobbying hard to win congressional support. According to The Washington Post, Obama and his team have spoken with at least 60 senators and 125 House members. Vice President Biden and others were meeting with officials in Washington, while Obama is overseas at the G-20 summit in Russia.

But that visit has been marked by flaring tensions between Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin, a close ally of the Assad regime. Obama has made little progress convincing Russia and China, both permanent and veto-wielding members of the U.N. Security Council, to drop their resistance to an attack on Syria in response to a chemical weapons attack last month.

Chinese President Xi Jinping reportedly told Obama on Friday that a political solution, not a military strike, is needed.

Meanwhile, emerging videos are stoking concerns about the nature of the opposition that the U.S. would inevitably be helping should the U.S. strike Assad. Though there are moderate wings of the opposition that the Obama administration would like to support, some are worried about the risk of more extreme factions jockeying for control in the event of a power vacuum.

One video, obtained by The New York Times, purported to show Syrian rebels executing seven shirtless prisoners.

There's also the concern of retaliation. The Wall Street Journal reported on Friday that the U.S. intercepted an order from the Iranian government to militants to attack U.S. interests in Iraq if there is a strike on Syria.

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