At the United Nations Monday, President Barack Obama touted what are probably the two biggest items left on his to-do list before leaving office — a global warming agreement later this year in Paris and a settlement to the Syria conflict. Congress barely got a mention.
The Paris accord, like the Iran deal before it, will be strictly an executive agreement, given that Obama wouldn’t have the votes to pass anything in either chamber. Prospects seem to have improved for getting a deal after last week’s agreement with China, which has announced plans to implement a cap-and-trade scheme and push for a global accord in France. Congress, if it gets a chance to weigh in at all, will be via an effort to disapprove Obama’s carbon regulations.
Obama’s hopes for resolving the Syria conflict, meanwhile, rests on Russia and Iran, given that the White House has not been able to articulate a strategy that would both destroy the Islamic State terror group, also known as ISIS, and force Syria President Bashar Assad from power. Congress, of course, hasn’t even been able to hash out a use-of-force resolution targeting ISIS, let alone agree on a broader Syria policy, and Obama’s left to jawbone Russia and Iran to do the right thing.
Both countries have more influence on the ground in Syria than the United States — and arguably more at stake for Russia given its naval base in Syria that is its only one in the Mediterranean.
Obama has the bully pulpit and the Air Force to deploy, but effectively no ground troops in the fight after the failure of the mission to train and equip moderates.