White House: No intention to strike Syria if Congress says no

White House deputy national security adviser Tony Blinken said Friday that if Congress rejects President Obama's request to authorize a military strike against Syria, it is "neither his desire nor his intention" to carry out the attack alone.

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"The president of course has the authority to strike, but its neither his desire nor his intention to use that authority absent Congress backing him," Blinken told NPR News

That admission is a significant one, as the White House's repeated caveats declaring that the president could act without congressional approval led many to believe Obama might carry out a strike against Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime even if he was rebuffed by Congress.

Blinken also told the radio network that the U.S. had exhausted all diplomatic solutions to the crisis in Syria, rejecting arguments made by some — including Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) — that the U.S. should try to resolve the situation without military force.

"We have severe sanctions on Syria and the Assad regime — we've squeezed and squeezed and squeezed," Blinken said, adding that the administration has "gone repeatedly to the United Nations Security Council" to add additional pressure.

"Time and again we've been blocked at the Security Council," he continued. "So at this point, we unfortunately have exhausted everything, and in that context to have this horrific chemical weapons attack that took well over 1,000 lives, including hundreds of children, for that to go unanswered would lead to even worse things."

Blinken also said that he did not believe that a military strike would escalate into broader war, despite concerns that Assad could again use chemical weapons, or that Syrian allies, like Iran or Hezbollah, could enter the fighting.

"We spent a lot of time when we think about these things trying to game out every possible contingency, every possible unintended consequence," Blinken said. 

"Nobody can give you 100 percent certainty, but we work to mitigate, we work to make sure that if anyone tries to do anything to escalate, we're in the best place to respond. But our best assessment, including by our intelligence community, is that none of these countries have an incentive to pick a fight with the United States."