The Future of US Influence Around the Globe Hinges on President Obama's Choice

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Audio Transcript:

Marco Werman: I'm Marco Werman. This is The World. It's a critical day for the debate over Syria and that's why we're devoting today's program to it. For you listeners we know it's a tough sell. Polls show more than 60 percent of Americans oppose military intervention. It's also a tough sell for President Obama, who is getting ready to speak directly to the American people tonight. He'll explain why he thinks Congress should authorize the use of American force in response to the Syrian regime’s use of chemical weapons. Obama argues that the credibility of the United States and the international community is at stake. So clearly a major moment for President Obama and for the future of US influence around the globe. We begin our coverage with The World's Matthew Bell, who's been keeping an eye on all the latest news in Syria. This Russian proposal for Assad to hand over his chemical weapons to an international group. Where is this plan now?

Matthew Bell: It's being talked about at United Nations headquarters in New York, Marco. This morning President Obama got on the phone with leaders in Britain, in France. They said, let's move forward at the United Nations. Let's see where this Russian plan goes, let's see if the Russians and the Syrians are serious. The Syrian government responded positively. The foreign minister there today said that Syria would be willing to disclose its chemical weapons stockpiles, this is a first, and that they'd cooperate with international inspectors, but there are huge questions here. The first one is how would disarmament happen during a bloody conflict. Secondly, Russian President Vladimir Putin was quoted today saying that any disarmament plan would require that the United States withdraw any threat of military action, so this new proposal could very well be a dead letter.

Werman: So what happens next? Is the administration still going to go to Congress for military authorization?

Cox: Absolutely. The White House appears to be determined to do that. Administration officials are saying that the Russian disarmament plan is worth pursuing. The President called Congress today and asked lawmakers to hold off on any vote authorizing force in Syria, just to let things play out at the UN. This morning John Kerry said that a plan to have international observers get rid of Syria's chemical weapons would be "ideal." He also said that the administration would be willing to wait, but they wouldn't be willing to wait for very long.

Werman: Alright, so, as you say, Matthew, this Russian proposal kind of moves the goal posts. Where does leave the balance of votes in Congress?

Cox: President Obama appears to still have his work cut out for him. He's getting pushback from members of both parties. Interesting reaction from John McCain who said he is very, very skeptical of this Russian plan, but he also wants to let it move forward and see what happens.

Werman: The World's Matthew Bell. He will be live tweeting President Obama's address tonight at 9. Matthew tweets @matthewjbell.