Today’s headlines: Barack Obama’s elevator pitch

What you need to know as the U.S. President makes his case for a limited military strike

<p>President Barack Obama speaks to reporters about possible U.S. action against Syria during a meeting with the leaders of Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania at the White House in Washington, Aug. 30, 2013. Obama said he was considering a &#8220;limited&#8221; attack and Secretary of State John Kerry earlier declared there was &#8220;clear&#8221; and &#8220;compelling&#8221; evidence that the Syrian government had used poison gas against its citizens. (Christopher Gregory/The New York Times)</p>

(Christopher Gregory/The New York Times)

(Christopher Gregory/The New York Times)

Barack Obama is trying to sell a limited military strike on Syria that will rid the government of its ability to use chemical weapons. That’s the elevator pitch, and the U.S. President will try to sell it in a series of network interviews and, tomorrow, in an address to the American people. The U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives will consider Obama’s request for Congressional approval of some form of targeted strike.

What would that strike comprise? Secretary of State John Kerry, speaking after a meeting with British Foreign Secretary William Hague in London, attempted an explanation.

“We’re not going to war. We will be able to hold Bashar al-Assad accountable without engaging troops on the ground or any other prolonged kind of effort, in a very limited, very targeted, very short-term effort that degrades his capacity to deliver chemical weapons without assuming responsibility for Syria’s civil war. That is exactly what we are talking about doing; an unbelievably small, limited kind of effort.”

Whether or not all the words that followed that first sentence sound like war or not, that’s the U.S. proposal: a short, targeted, limited, small attack on specific government-controlled installations. Meanwhile, an American official put a timeline on the operation in an interview with the L.A. Times, and forecast a larger campaign than was originally intended. “There will be several volleys and an assessment after each volley, but all within 72 hours and a clear indication when we are done,” said the official.

A three-day series of strikes, then, and nothing more. Someone should count the number of times a country has planned a quick military operation, and then count the number of times things didn’t go as quickly as planned.

What about the specific evidence for such a strike? The Americans aren’t playing ball. “The U.S. government insists it has the intelligence to prove it, but the public has yet to see a single piece of concrete evidence produced by U.S. intelligence,” reported the Associated Press. Meanwhile, the AP reports, the Syrian government and its allies in Russia have claimed, also without evidence, that rebels—including al-Qaeda forces, according to pro-Syria websites—carried out the alleged chemical attack. He said, she said.

Obama’s sales pitch to America is fraught. At every turn, he’s reminded of a historical moment he ought to avoid at all costs: Kerry invoked the appeasement of the Nazis at Munich in 1938, while newspapers recall the lack of a solid case for the invasion of Iraq just a decade ago. How the president can avoid tying himself in knots as he makes his case is almost inconceivable. His pitch is so simple, on its face, but so terribly complex between the lines. Obama cannot hope for a slam dunk.

What’s above the fold this morning?

The Globe and Mail leads with the Quebec government’s plan for a five-year grace period as it bans religious symbols in public workplaces. The National Post fronts the lack of evidence directly linking a chemical attack on Syrians to government forces. The Toronto Star goes above the fold with U.S. President Barack Obama’s public relations blitz to secure public support for a strike on Syria. The Ottawa Citizen leads with $1 million worth of equipment purchased, but never acquired, by the Canadian military. iPolitics fronts columnist Michael Harris’ response to criticism levelled at him by Justice Minister Peter MacKay. leads with calls for laws to protect interns after an Alberta man died on the way home after working long hours. CTV News leads with Obama’s public plea for support for a strike on Syria. National Newswatch showcases a CBC News story in which a former House of Commons law clerk claims Senator Mike Duffy did not break the law when he took a $90,000 cheque from former PMO chief of staff Nigel Wright.

Stories that will be (mostly) missed

1. Luxury investment. The Canadian Pension Plan Investment Board looks to be investing in U.S. luxury chain Neiman Marcus Inc., a $6-billion deal with equity partner Ares Management LLC.2. Pets. A Montreal woman wants online classifieds site Kijiji to prevent the sale of household pets, a practice already adopted by Craigslist, as part of a larger campaign to get rid of puppy mills.
3. Drugs. U.S. prosecutors accused a 27-year-old Canadian man, as well as a Spaniard, of possessing 621 kilograms of cocaine with intent to distribute. The pair were spotted off the U.S. coast.4. Keystone XL. Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver will head to Washington, D.C., for his first one-on-one meeting with U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz. Pipelines are on the agenda.
5. Moscow election. Alexei Navalny, who lost to mayor Sergei Sobyanin in a first round of voting, claimed irregularities and threatened street protests if a second round run-off weren’t held.6. Kenya-China. Kenya’s dilapidated railways will be rebuilt by China, thanks to a $5.2-billion agreement that will also see new hydroelectric dams and larger Kenyan ports n the coast.