Tuesday night, perhaps after realizing he had neither the support of politicians nor that of the American people, President Barack Obama put a hold on Congress’ decision on military intervention in Syria. The decision came after Russian President Vladimir Putin proposed a diplomatic response to the Syrian government’s use of chemical weapons. President Bashar Assad’s regime has admitted, for the first time, that it holds chemical weapons and has agreed to reveal their location and halt production, but there is apparently still some tension between Russia and Syria with regard to the stockpile’s destruction.

In his speech, televised Tuesday evening from the White House, President Obama said he was in agreement with those who wrote to him saying the United States shouldn’t be the world’s policeman, and reiterated his “deeply held preference for peaceful solutions.” Obama made it clear, however, that there is still a long road ahead on the Syrian crisis and that U.S. threats were the impetus behind Assad’s current signs of cooperation, according to the BBC:

President Obama said the Russian plan and the regime’s admission that it held chemical weapons were “encouraging signs”.

“It’s too early to tell whether [the Russian plan] will succeed, and any agreement must verify that the Assad regime keeps its commitments,” he said.

“But this initiative has the potential to remove the threat of chemical weapons without the use of force, particularly because Russia is one of Assad’s strongest allies.”

He said the diplomatic movements were in part a result of the credible threat of US military action, but that he was willing to postpone the congressional vote to allow diplomacy to be pursued.

He added: “Meanwhile, I’ve ordered our military to maintain their current posture, to keep the pressure on Assad and to be in a position to respond if diplomacy fails.”

During his speech, Mr Obama restated the US position that Mr Assad’s government was responsible for the 21 August attack, which he described as “sickening”.

He said that such an attack was not only a violation of international law it was also a danger to US national security.

He confirmed earlier reports that US Secretary of State John Kerry would meet his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov in Geneva on Thursday, adding: “I will continue my own discussions with President Putin.”

…There were heated debates at the UN on Tuesday, with the UK, US and France calling for a timetable and the consequences of a Syrian failure to comply with any resolution spelt out.

Watch Obama’s full speech on his decision to call off the congressional vote here.

—Posted by Natasha Hakimi

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