Obama Faces the World After Bombs Fall in Syria
First Draft

SEPTEMBER 23, 2014  By Peter Baker  


Fighters from the Nusra Front among destroyed buildings south of Damascus, Syria, on Monday. Airstrikes were focused on fighters from the Nusra Front in northern Idlib Province. Rami Al-Sayed/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Good Tuesday morning and welcome to First Draft’s second day. It is a busy one.

President Obama heads to New York on Tuesday morning to address world leaders just hours after opening a new front in the war against Islamic extremists with an aerial barrage in Syria. But unlike with previous armed conflicts, he will be seeking support, not permission. (Russia would say no, anyway.)

The president stayed out of sight on Monday night even as the Pentagon confirmed the first strikes inside Syria against the terrorist group known as the Islamic State. He had told the nation in a speech Sept. 10 that he had authorized such strikes, but he left it to military commanders to decide when and where to open the air campaign. The White House said only that he was kept updated on the operation.

So his trip to New York for three days of meetings with presidents and prime ministers at the United Nations General Assembly meeting will present Mr. Obama with his first chance to talk publicly about the airstrikes.

The president will in effect be presenting his peers with a fait accompli and asking them to individually stand by his decision, even though he does not have an invitation from Syria’s government to use force inside its borders against the terrorist group.

While in New York, Mr. Obama will also seek to pass a Security Council resolution calling on all nations to prosecute those who travel abroad to join terrorist organizations or help finance them. And he will meet with Haider al-Abadi, the new Iraqi prime minister, whom Mr. Obama hopes to make a strong ally in the fight against the Islamic State.