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Catherine Thompson

Catherine Thompson is a news writer for Talking Points Memo. Before joining TPM, she worked as a research assistant to investigative reporter Wayne Barrett and interned at The L Magazine. At New York University she served as the deputy managing editor of NYU's student newspaper, The Washington Square News. She can be reached at catherine@talkingpointsmemo.com.

Articles by Catherine

A senior Syrian official told the Wall Street Journal Monday that the Syrian army and its ally Hezbollah, the Lebanese militant group classified by the U.S. as a terrorist organization, would hit American warships now stationed in the Mediterranean Sea should the U.S. launch an attack.

"The resistance and the armed forces are now one body," Syrian parliament member Khaled Abboud, a confidant of President Bashar al-Assad, told the Journal in reference to Hezbollah. "In my assessment, Hezbollah will side with Syria in certain operations targeting warships in the Mediterranean."

The Syrian government has ordered civilians to move away from military bases around Damascus and began to move soldiers into vacant apartments in that city, according to the Journal, as members of Congress debate a U.S. response to the Assad regime's chemical weapons use.

President Barack Obama said Tuesday that "limited, proportional" military strikes against Syria would degrade President Bashar al-Assad's chemical weapons capabilities and allow that nation to "free itself" from political conflict.

"The key point I want to emphasize to the American people, the military plan that has been developed by our joint chiefs and that I believe is appropriate is proportional, it is limited, it does not involve boots on the ground," Obama said before a meeting with lawmakers at the White House. "This is not Iraq and this is not Afghanistan."

The president added that those strikes would "fit into a broader strategy" to strengthen the Syrian opposition and bring stability to that nation.

"At the same time, we have a broader strategy that will allow us to upgrade the capabilities of the opposition, allow Syria ultimately to free itself from these kinds of terrible civil wars and death on the ground," he said.

Obama also said he was confident that he'll get a congressional vote in favor of military action, which may come as early as next week.

This post has been updated.

Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) said Tuesday that it "would be a recipe for disaster" if Congress were to "micromanage" military action in Syria, but agreed with lawmakers calling for more narrow language in President Barack Obama's authorization request for the use of force. 

"My view of the constitution is, Congress has to be involved in the initiation of military action, but the president's the commander-in-chief and you've got to give the president some latitude in terms of implementing the congressional decision to initiate military action," Kaine said on MSNBC's "Morning Joe." 

Kaine said the president would need "additional authority" before putting boots on the ground, echoing Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), who over the weekend said Senate Democratic aides were drafting new language amending the president's resolution to prevent the deployment of American troops in Syria.

"The White House has said there won't be boots on the ground in this operation," Kiane added, "that's probably pretty important to specify in an authorization."

Democratic National Committee Chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) said Monday that "dozens of countries" will support the United States in carrying out a military strike against Syria.

Asked by CNN's Wolf Blitzer which countries would use their own military power to attack Syrian targets, Schultz said she was "not at liberty to say."

"What I can tell you is that there are many nations who have committed to support the United States in our action," she told Blitzer, as quoted by CNN. "In both military and diplomatic and political support, there are dozens of nations who have committed to back us up. That's what I'm at liberty to say."

While French President Francois Hollande has said his country is "ready to punish" Syria over its use of chemical weapons, other nations have not committed to military intervention or are opposed to it. The British parliament rejected military action last week despite strong support for a strike from Prime Minister David Cameron, and Russian President Vladmir Putin, a strong ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, called the idea that the Assad regime would have used chemical weapons "utter nonsense."

Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos gave his first interview to the Washington Post since purchasing the paper for $250 million, saying he'd apply his same philosophy for running Amazon to the newspaper while suggesting he'd take a hands-off approach to running the business.

"We’ve had three big ideas at Amazon that we’ve stuck with for 18 years, and they’re the reason we’re successful: Put the customer first. Invent. And be patient,” Bezos told the Post in an interview published Tuesday. “If you replace ‘customer’ with ‘reader,’ that approach, that point of view, can be successful at The Post, too.”

He said his most significant contributions would be his "point of view" and financial support over the long term, allowing the newsroom to find a model that will make the Post profitable.

"If we figure out a new golden era at The Post . . . that will be due to the ingenuity and inventiveness and experimentation of the team at The Post,” he said. “I’ll be there with advice from a distance. If we solve that problem, I won’t deserve credit for it."

President Barack Obama met with Sens. John McCain (R-AZ) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) Monday at the White House as part of his push to secure congressional approval for a limited military strike against Syria. They were joined by National Security Advisor Susan Rice.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad dismissed evidence the United States and France said shows his regime used chemical weapons on Syrian civilians, warning that any planned military response could result in a "regional war." 

In excerpts from an interview with French newspaper Le Figaro published Monday, Assad suggested it was illogical to think his army would have employed chemical weapons on Aug. 21 in Damascus, where its own soldiers were stationed.

"Someone who makes accusations needs proof," Assad said, as translated by Al Jazeera. "We challenged the U.S. and France to show us proof. Mr. Obama and Hollande were incapable even when asked to do so by their own peoples."

As for his response to a potential military strike on his country, Assad compared the Middle East to a "powder keg" and told Le Figaro that a first strike from the West could prompt responses from other corners of the region.

"Everyone will lose control of the situation when the powder keg explodes," he said, as translated by Al Jazeera. "Chaos and extremism will be widespread. The risk of a regional war exists."

Secretary of State John Kerry told House Democrats on Monday that the decision whether or not to authorize a military response to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime's use of chemical weapons was a "Munich moment" for the United States, Politico reported.

Democratic sources on the 70-minute conference call told Politico that Kerry called Assad a "two-bit dictator" who will "continue to act with impunity." The secretary of state urged lawmakers to support President Barack Obama's decision to use force against Syria in the form of "limited, narrow" strikes, reminding them that Israel would back a U.S. military response, according to the sources.

While House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) voiced support for the White House position on the call, sources told Politico that not all participants were receptive to Kerry's message. Rep. Rick Nolan (D-MN) and Kerry reportedly got into a "heated exchange" when Nolan challenged evidence the Obama administration presented last week to support its claim that the Assad regime used chemical weapons against Syrian civilians.

The Navy aircraft carrier USS Nimitz has moved into the Red Sea but has not received orders to participate in planning for a limited U.S. military strike on Syria, ABC News reported Monday.

A U.S. official confirmed to ABC News that early Monday the Nimitz, along with four other ships, moved into the Red Sea to "maximize available options," although it has not been assigned a mission. Reuters first reported Sunday that the Nimitz and its strike group were headed towards the Red Sea from their previous position in the Indian Ocean to support a strike if needed.

There are now five U.S. destroyers in position in the eastern Mediterranean, according to ABC News, which U.S. officials said would likely carry out any limited cruise missile strikes.

Pope Francis reflected on the current state of world affairs Sunday and Monday on his Twitter account, praying for peace as news about the United States' efforts to garner international support for a military strike on Syria dominated weekend headlines.

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