Pulling back from the brink, a lonely President Barack Obama indicated that he would not order military strikes over Syria until he has received authorisation from the United States Congress – putting an unexpected brake on what had seemed like impending action.
Mr Obama made clear that he had the authority to order a strike in response to the Assad regime using chemical weapons against civilians, and stands ready to do so at any time. But announcing a delay that stunned many, he pledged: “I will seek authorisation 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.”
In a statement from the Rose Garden that was watched by the world, Mr Obama reiterated the US intelligence conclusion that the Syrian regime was responsible for the gas attacks. “This attack is an assault on human dignity,” he declared, and warned that it could lead to escalating use of chemical weapons.