But now he's taking to the airwaves amid hopes that a diplomatic solution is at hand involving Russia, a frequent U.S. antagonist, that would avert the need for American military intervention in Syria.
In a day of breakneck developments, Bashar Assad's regime said it had accepted Russia's proposal to place its chemical weapons under international control for subsequent dismantling. The progress hit a snag later in the day, however, when Russia objected to a French proposal involving the United Nations Security Council.
Chuck Hagel, the U.S. defence secretary, told a House of Representatives hearing that the Russian plan could haul America back from the precipice of yet another Middle Eastern war — one that few Americans want any part of, according to a flurry of recent polls.
"All of us are hopeful that this option could be a real solution to this crisis," Hagel said.
Jay Carney, the White House press secretary, was quick to frame the developments as a looming victory for the Obama administration, under serious fire for days for its seemingly erratic response to last month's chemical attack in a suburb of Damascus that left hundreds dead. Assad has denied Western allegations that he carried out the attacks.
"Let's be clear, what we're seeing with the Russian proposal and Syrian reaction has only come about because of the threat, the credible threat of U.S. military action," Carney said on MSNBC.
"Before this morning, the Syrian government had never even acknowledged they possessed chemical weapons. Now they have."
Obama has agreed to discuss Russia's proposal with the United Nations, the White House said Tuesday, even though he still intends to cajole Congress to authorize U.S. military strikes against Assad's regime in the event diplomacy efforts ultimately fail. His televised address on Tuesday night is still expected to hammer home that point.
France's foreign minister, Laurent Fabius, said his country is initiating a Security Council resolution at the UN. At a Tuesday news conference in Paris, Fabius said the resolution would include a condemnation of Syria's use of chemical weapons and would vow "very serious consequences" if Assad's regime blocked efforts to set up UN weapons inspections and control the destruction of chemical weapons.
Russia, however, has rebuffed the French strategy, calling "unacceptable" a binding Security Council resolution that threatens force against Syria if it fails to comply.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said the plan can only work if "the American side and those who support the U.S.A., in this sense, reject the use of force."
Secretary of State John Kerry backed France in a Google Plus chat on Tuesday afternoon.
"We need a full resolution from the Security Council in order to have the confidence that this has the force that it ought to have," said Kerry, who will travel to Geneva on Thursday to meet with his Russian counterpart to discuss Syria.
"That's our belief and obviously, right now, the Russians are in a slightly different place on that. We'll have to see where we get to. Obviously, I'm not going to negotiate this out in public."
Both Kerry and Obama have said they discussed the idea last week with the Russians at the G20 summit in St. Petersburg.
Obama spoke earlier Tuesday with French President Francois Hollande and British Prime Minister David Cameron about Syria. On Monday night, Obama and Prime Minister Stephen Harper spoke, agreeing that there must be a strong international response to the use of chemical weapons to deter similar atrocities from being unleashed upon innocent civilians in the future.
Obama also met Tuesday with senators who are wary of U.S. military intervention in Syria. A bipartisan group of senators started preparing a resolution calling for a UN team to remove Syria's chemical weapons by a set deadline and green-lighting U.S. military action if the Syrians fail to comply.
In Kerry's testimony to the House armed services committee, he agreed that the Syrians must not be allowed to drag their feet.
"This cannot be a process of delay," he said. "This cannot be a process of avoidance."
In a round of media interviews a day earlier, Obama was equally cautious about the prospect of a military strike being averted if Syria indeed hands over its chemical weapons to Russia.
"It's possible if it's real," Obama told CNN. "This is what we've been asking for not just over the last week or the last month, but for the last couple of years."
John Boehner, speaker of the House of Representatives, said Tuesday he was wary that Russia would truly be able to persuade Assad to give up his chemical weapons.
"I'm skeptical of it because of the actors that are involved. It's as simple as that," Boehner told a Capitol Hill news conference. "Clearly, diplomacy is always a better outcome than military action. But I will say I'm somewhat skeptical of those that are involved in the diplomatic discussion today."
Canada's foreign affairs minister sounded a similar tone.
"Actions will speak louder than words. Canada will wait to see what the particulars are for securing and destroying the entirety of the Assad regime's stockpiles of chemical weapons immediately," John Baird said in a statement.
"Trusting the regime to comply with any commitment after years of deceit would be a challenge. We want to ensure this proposal is not merely a delay tactic."Suggest a correction