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Obama's Crossroads

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On Friday, President Obama returned from his bus trip to the North East where he attempted to sell his Middle Class Agenda targeted to the Fall Mid-Term electorate.

He returns to possibly the most difficult week of his presidency to date.

President Obama has to make a crucial decision on the US response to Syrian President Assad's use of chemical weapons and deliver the speech of a lifetime on the 50th Anniversary of the "I Have A Dream Speech" in the shadow of one of the greatest orators of all time - Martin Luther King Jr on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.

President Obama will also be dealing with the following headaches:

  • Edward Snowden and his latest leaks which seem to indicate that the Administration may not have been telling the whole truth on the NSA program's flaws and its broad reach;
  • Egypt and The Middle East - in general, and
  • The Political Battles ahead with Congress when they return on: funding the government, implementing Obamacare, immigration reform, raising the debt ceiling, etc.

The Syrian Crisis has clearly moved to the top of the President's international crisis agenda.

With the use of chemical weapons in Syria just about fully confirmed, the President must now decide if his "red line" has been crossed and what the consequences will be.

It is clear that the US is considering some form of military action.

However, there are no good choices here.

Both the logistical and political consequences of any military strike are quite challenging.

Any military responsive is logistically difficult and is likely to cause civilian casualties, since it might be in or near a population center.

There are also concerns that a strike designed to take out Assad's chemical weapons store could result in disbursing dangerous agents into the air with no way to control the fallout.

Assad's latest announcement that he is allowing the UN inspectors in to do their work was clearly designed to try to stall any US military action.

After this announcement, the President sent his own message that Assad's announcement was in essence "too late".

It seems clear that the US and its allies including Great Britain will not allow Assad to "run the schedule" this time.

The fact the UN inspectors came under attack today makes it clear that they will not be granted safe passage to do their job.

There is also concern that the Syrian Regime could take them as hostages in an effort to try to prevent any military retaliation.

The UN inspectors presence on the ground further complicates any strike.

President Obama will also want some legal authorization to take this kind of action - which means either a UN or possibility a NATO sanctioned action.

A UN resolution seems unlikely since Russia and China will stand in the way.

The attack on the UN inspectors may make finding a legal authorization just a little easier.

The Obama Administration is working very hard behind the scenes with its allies to put a coalition in place to support any such military response.

This is not a case where the US will want to take any action on its own.

The political consequences of ousting Assad are also not very clear.

The Obama Administration will be especially cautious, given the recent events in Egypt.

Assad is clearly not a friend to the US, Great Britain or their allies or his own people but many in the opposition could be equally problematic.

It seems clear that whoever finally "wins" in Syria they are unlikely to be friendly to the US, Great Britain and their allies.

Syria is being backed by the Russians and Iranians.

What the US does or does not do will be watched carefully by these two players and could initiate an unwelcome response.

Any military action will send multiple messages to a variety of players including - Russia, Iran, Egypt, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and the list goes on.

There is also a concern here that any action could spark a proxy war between the US and Russia.

It is also possible that this could trigger an alignment of Sunni vs Shia Muslim states in this region.

What happens in Syria and Egypt is also being closely watched in the other countries in this region that do not have any form of democratic participation as part of their governing system.

Any military action by the US and its allies will send a message but it is unlikely to have the desired result which is to stop Assad's violence against his own people.

It could however silence those who call the President a "paper tiger"- but it is not clear at what cost.

Additionally, it would be quite rare for an initial military action not to lead to another.

This would be bad news for Obama and the Democrats as the Mid-Terms are just around the corner.

While the Syria crisis has taken center stage, the Egypt dilemma has not gone away.

Hosni Mubarak has been released from jail and President Morsi and the leader of the Muslim Brotherhood are still in custody.

The interim Egyptian leadership will be watching carefully to see what happens in Syria.

While all of this is focusing President Obama's attention on the Middle East, there is something very powerful going on this week right here in Washington.

This is the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington and the inspirational "I Have A Dream Speech" delivered by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

This would have been a momentous event on its own.

However, in light of the recent US Supreme Court decision eliminating some of the voting rights protections for minorities and the recent verdict in the Trayvon Martin Case and 'Stand Your Ground', this anniversary is likely to be used as a rallying cry for a renewed civil rights movement and the continuation of Dr. King's work.

On Wednesday Representative John Lewis (D-GA), the last living speaker from that day 50 years ago, will speak at the "Let Freedom Ring Ceremony" along with former Presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton.

President Obama who will follow, is under pressure to give the speech of a lifetime.

Unlike Dr. King, President Obama is a political leader and not a religious leader or the leader of a social movement.

His job is to move Congress to pass legislation.

However, inspiration is often the key to moving things forward through the political process.

This address is important on so many fronts. The President can use this as an opportunity to push his political agenda before the Mid-Terms begin.

Or President Obama can make a non-partisan address to the Nation that will live beyond his time in office and become part of his legacy.

Jon-Christopher Bua's blogposts for Sky News appear here