Obama needs Congressional approval to give Syria intervention 'at least some legitimacy' – Pushkov

US President Barack Obama does not need congressional approval to order strikes against Syria, but that option is disadvantageous to him, Chairman of the Russian State Duma International Affairs Committee Alexei Pushkov told Interfax.

 “The law obliges the president to seek congressional authorization in case of war, but in a whole number of cases in the past the law was ignored on the basis of Congress’s resolution 1973 which authorizes the president to launch a military operation overseas for up to 60 days under emergency circumstances without seeking permission from Congress if immediate action is necessary,” Pushkov said.

The history of the United States knows a number of precedents when presidents did not seek authorization from Congress for using military force outside of the US, yet no impeachment motion or accusations of breaching the law were subsequently brought against them.

“It happened when Reagan moved troops to Grenada in 1893 and also when Clinton ordered to bomb Belgrade in 1999. Nor did Obama seek

Congress’s permission for a military operation against Libya a few years ago,” Pushkov said.

Obama could have chosen the well-trodden path and skip Congress, yet decided against it – but why?

 “If Congress backs him, it will be his response to public opinion - look, I have a mandate of the American nation. Now, judging by opinion polls, Obama has no such mandate,” Pushkov remarked.

"Obama needs Congressional approval to give the war at least some legitimacy," Pushkov asserted.

Obama’s decision to seek congressional support postpones the beginning of military intervention Syria until at least September 9.

 “This, of course, is a shift in tactics, but the strategy is unchanged,” said the lawmaker.

He feels that Obama’s tactical maneuver “aims to garner as much support as possible”, which will also buy him time to convince public opinion at home, in Europe and other countries that the US Administration made the right decision, to “turn public opinion in his favor, which is now not in his favor, and thus forge a stronger political platform for military intervention”. 

“That’s the essence of Obama’s decision to go to Congress,” said Pushkov.

M.D