Despite indications that the Obama administration is leaning toward a military strike in Syria, the U.S. could be hamstrung by its own desire to wait for the say-so from top U.S. allies.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Monday that the U.S. would only act in coordination with the international community, according to Reuters.
If President Obama's weekend phone calls are any indication -- he spoke with U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron and French President Francois Hollande -- that means Britain and France. But those nations could take longer than the U.S. to prepare for a possible strike, in response to an alleged chemical gas attack by the Assad regime.
Cameron, who is cutting his summer vacation short to lead a meeting of his National Security Council, is facing demands from British lawmakers to seek permission from Parliament first. Members of Parliament say they want to be recalled, so Cameron can make his case to them personally for any military intervention in Syria.
British officials have suggested that a vote from the U.N. Security Council -- where Russia and China have considerable sway -- may not be necessary. But Cameron risks a political thunderstorm if he proceeds with military action without some authorization from Parliament.
President Obama does not necessarily face the same hurdle in Washington. The War Powers Resolution technically requires the president to seek congressional authorization when the military is sent into "hostilities" for anything but a retaliatory attack or formally declared war. But presidents have routinely flouted or found ways around that resolution -- the resolution, for instance, did not stop Obama from teaming up with Britain and France for airstrikes in Libya against Muammar Qaddafi's government.
In Congress, some high-ranking lawmakers have voiced support for a limited intervention anyway.
Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told "Fox News Sunday" that he would support a "surgical" response -- joining others in hinting at support for a missile strike. He drew the line at sending U.S. troops into the country, saying "boots on the ground" would not be acceptable.
Rep. Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said Monday that "the United States in conjunction with our international allies have a moral obligation to help prevent the further use of these horrific weapons against civilians and take steps to tip the balance away from this brutal regime."
Still, the American public is deeply divided over the conflict in Syria. A recent Reuters/Ipsos survey said just 27 percent supported sending arms to Syrian rebels. A scant 12 percent supported airstrikes, while the most popular option seemed to be to do nothing at all.
The administration, and lawmakers, remain cautious about intervention, in part because of the difficulty in discerning which opposition groups to back. While the U.S. weighs a possible strike on the Assad regime, the head of the Al Qaeda-linked Nusra Front reportedly has threatened attacks on members of the Alawite community, the faith of Syrian President Bashar Assad.
While the U.S. and its allies deliberate, the Navy has sent four warships into the eastern Mediterranean Sea. According to senior U.S. defense officials, the four Destroyers are in position and would be capable of launching a missile strike at a moment's notice. Onboard each ship are up to roughly 90 Tomahawk missiles. U.S. military officials said the Pentagon is in a "watch-and-wait mode," and the decision rests with Obama. One official suggested it is unlikely the U.S. will launch any strike while U.N. inspectors remain on the ground, for fear they could be taken hostage.
The movement and deliberations come in response to allegations that the Assad regime launched a chemical attack last week that killed hundreds.
A United Nations team currently is in the country to investigate, though was fired upon by snipers Monday morning.
The U.S. is nearing its own conclusions in the meantime. A senior State Department official said Sunday that Secretary of State John Kerry made clear to international partners over the weekend that "there is very little doubt that a chemical weapon was used by the Syrian regime against civilians in this incident."
Fox News' Jennifer Griffin contributed to this report.