A timeline of the Syrian crisis

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Published on September 10, 2013

By the time hints emerged today that Russia’s offer to help disgorge Syria’s chemical weapons might not be very serious, it was already being debated whether it had been a diplomatic master-stroke on Obama’s part, or a sign that the administration had bungled its way to a good conclusion of the Syrian crisis.

Just so that everyone has the same facts available, I’ve started building a timeline on Syria.

This is a work in progress. If I’ve gotten something wrong or I’m missing something you think is important, please let me know on Twitter at @freddoso.

Aug. 21: A chemical attack is launched against civilians in rebel-controlled areas outside Damascus, killing over 1,000 people, hundreds of whom are children. Bashar al-Assad’s regime, which is known to possess chemical weapons, is immediately suspected.  

Aug. 24: UN Inspectors arrive in Damascus. White House weighs military strike on Assad.

Aug. 25: France, UK and U.S. consider military action. U.S. official says Syria’s offer to allow UN inspections is “too late to be credible.”

Aug. 26: U.S. official tells CNN that a strike could be launched “within hours” on Obama’s order.

Iraq refuses use of its airspace for any U.S. attack on Syria.

Members of Congress circulate letter to Obama demanding he come to Congress before starting a war.

White House spokesman Jay Carney downplays role for Congress, United Nations in Syria air strike.

Aug. 28: UN inspectors beg for at least four days to investigate, call on Obama to go to the UN Security Council first. 

For the first time since the American Revolution, UK Parliament rejects a government-backed war in a narrow vote. Prime Minister David Cameron says he will abide by the outcome, removing UK from the coalition.

Arab League refuses to support U.S. attack.

White House floats trial balloon, signalling that it will act in Syria with or without allies, NATO, or UN support. Members of Congress object, call on Obama to make the case to them.

Aug. 29: King Abdullah II of Jordan and Pope Francis say dialogue is “the only option” on Syria.

Aug. 30: U.S. releases report to justify Syria strike.

Aug. 31: Lacking outside support, Obama reverses White House stance, announces that he will, in fact, go to Congress for war authorization after the House returns to session Sept. 9.

Obama’s top advisors think this is a work of genius because it forces Congress to buy into the war.

Sept. 2: Assad tells Le Figaro that France and the U.S. will be helping terrorists if they attack him.

 Sept. 3: House leaders Pelosi, Boehner and Cantor back Obama on Syria strike.

Secretary of State John Kerry and Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel begin several rounds of Syria testimony before House and Senate committees, testifying, among other things, that the war is not really a “war” and that action will be too limited to force any major consequences like regime change.

Assad reportedly moves weapons and troops ahead of strike.

Sept 5: UN Ambassador Samantha Power blasts Russia at the UN: “…continues to hold the [UN Security] Council hostage and shirk its responsibility.

White House leaks word that Obama refused to do any horse-trading with Putin over Assad’s fate. (This obviously becomes important later.)

Sept. 6: Congress not buying it — 226 declare themselves “no” or “lean no” as of Friday, Sept. 6, according to the Washington Post.

Sept. 7: Pope Francis holds peace vigil, calls for fasting and prayer to avoid war.

Sept. 8: Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mich., accuses the administration of embellishment in its public case for war.

Charlie Rose interviews Assad, who claims there’s no evidence he was responsible for the attack.

Sept. 9: In answer to fears of deep entanglement in Syria, Kerry promises an “unbelievably small” attack.

National Security Advisor Susan Rice makes an impassioned and emotional case for war at the New America Foundation, repeatedly invoking dead Syrian children and arguing that failure to act would also endanger U.S. national security

New Pew Poll (as well as several other polls released the same day) shows public opposition to war has grown substantially. 

Asked whether there might be any way to avoid war, Kerry mentions that Assad could give up his chemical weapons into international hands.

U.S. State Department immediately “clarifies” that this wasn’t meant as an actual offer.

Too late. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov pounces on Kerry’s comment and calls on Syria to give up its weapons.

Additional members of Congress declare opposition to war.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, lacking the votes for war, delays the vote. 

Obama, already scheduled to give multiple television interviews, speaks favorably of the deal, changes the text of his Tuesday night speech.

Sept. 10: Assad accepts the Russians’ deal, which solves nearly all of his problems for the time being. He immediately redeploys his Air Force to bomb rebels in the Damascus suburbs.

Russia opposes UN resolution allowing inspections of Syrian chemical weapons, throwing the deal into doubt.

Obama to address Congress and the nation from the East Room tonight.