As President Obama and his advisers ratchet up the pressure on the government of President Bashar al-Assad in Syria, about 60 percent of Americans say the United States should not intervene in Syria's civil war, according to a new Reuters/Ipsos poll. Only 9 percent of Americans say the United States should act militarily.
A senior U.S. official told the Associated Press Sunday that there is "very little doubt" that the Syrian government has used chemical weapons against civilians, which Obama has warned would be a "red line" that could lead to a harsh U.S. response.
But the poll finds that most Americans still oppose U.S intervention even if chemical weapons have been used in Syria. "Taken together, the polls suggest that, so far, the growing crisis in Syria and the emotionally wrenching pictures from an alleged chemical attack in a Damascus suburb [last] week may actually be hardening many Americans' resolve not to get involved in another conflict in the Middle East," Reuters says.
"The results – and Reuters-Ipsos polling on the use-of-chemicals question since last June – suggest that if Obama decides to undertake military action against Assad's regime, he will do so in the face of steady opposition from an American public wary after more than a decade of war in Iraq and Afghanistan."
Obama told CNN in an interview broadcast Friday that he will proceed cautiously. "If the U.S goes in and attacks another country without a UN mandate and without clear evidence that can be presented," he said, "then there are questions in terms of whether international law supports it. Do we have the coalition to make it work? Those are considerations that we have to take into account."
At the same time. U.S. officials say American naval forces are moving closer to Syria to facilitate possible air strikes.
And some in Congress favor a military response. Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., called for the United States to "take limited military actions in Syria" because of what "clearly constitutes the commission of a war crime."
Ken Walsh covers the White House and politics for U.S. News. He writes the daily blog "Ken Walsh's Washington" for usnews.com and "The Presidency" column for the U.S. News Weekly. He is the author of the new book "Prisoners of the White House: The Isolation of America's Presidents and the Crisis of Leadership." Ken Walsh can be reached at email@example.com and on Facebook and Twitter.