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Al Assad has denied any involvement in the attack.
In an afternoon speech from the White House Rose Garden, Obama stressed that he had the authority to order such an attack but that securing support from Congress would be better for the country.
“After careful deliberation, I have decided that the United States should take military action,” Obama said. “I am prepared to give that order.”
“Our power is rooted not just in our military might, but in our example as a government of the people, by the people and for the people,” Obama went on to say.
“And that’s why I’ve made a second decision: I will seek authorization for the use of force from the American people’s representatives in Congress. … We should have this debate, because the issues are too big for business as usual.”
Although the US has beefed up its presence in the Mediterranean with two destroyers joining an earlier fleet of four naval vessels Friday, Obama’s speech softened the beating of war drums earlier in the week which appeared to signal a strike against Syria was imminent.
Obama’s speech also comes two days after his UK ally British Prime Minister David Cameron failed to gain parliamentary backing for the military response. The UK government’s calling for “a strong humanitarian response from international society” including military action, was defeated by 272 votes to 285.
“The outcome of such an action is unpredictable and will only worsen the conflict. It will ultimately be the people of Syria who pay the price, whilst those participating in the military intervention will return to safety far away from the crisis,” said a statement from the Foreign Ministry’s Department of International Relations and Cooperation.