In a preview of what Obama's administration faces next week, French lawmakers will debate the wisdom and necessity of a military response on Wednesday to a chemical weapons attack in Syria that killed hundreds.
Shoring up support for a military response, French officials said a punitive military response would help shift the balance in a two-and-half-year old civil war that was tipping in favor of Bashar Assad.
"If you want a political solution, you have to move the situation. If there's no sanction, Bashar Assad will say 'that's fine, I'll continue what I'm doing,'" France's foreign minister, Laurent Fabius, told France Info radio on Wednesday morning, hours ahead of the debate.
As the Obama administration worked to build its own support ahead of the Congress vote, the US and Israel conducted a joint missile test yesterday in the eastern Mediterranean in an apparent signal of military readiness. In the operation, a missile was fired from the sea toward the Israeli coast to test the tracking by the country's missile defense system.
But Russian President Vladimir Putin, one of Assad's most vocal supporters, warned the West against taking one-sided action in Syria, although he told The Associated Press that Russia had frozen new shipments to Syria of an air defense missile system.
There's a major difference between the French debate and the one coming up on Capitol Hill: President Francois Hollande has an easy majority in the French parliament, and he neither needs nor, unlike President Barack Obama, wants their vote of approval. But with the prospect of military action against Assad facing dwindling support internationally, the government has been building its case.
The US and France accuse the Syrian government of using chemical weapons in an August 21 attack on rebel-held suburb of Damascus that killed hundreds of people. Obama and Hollande are pushing for a military response to punish Assad for his alleged use of poison gas against civilians though US officials say any action will be limited in scope, not aimed at helping to remove Assad.
Putin said Russia "doesn't exclude" supporting a UN resolution on punitive military strikes if it is proved that Damascus used poison gas on its own people, but he questioned the proofs released by Britain, the United States and France as part of their efforts to build international support.
Any proof needs to go before the Security Council, Putin told The Associated Press.
"And it ought to be convincing. It shouldn't