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Obama agenda: Iraq's impact on Syria decision

Josh Gerstein notes that Iraq has to be a factor in Obama’s caution on Syria. Said ex-White House counsel Greg Craig: “It has to be a factor. He does not want to jump to conclusions or shoot from the hip.”

A White House official to National Journal on Syria: “Given our own history relating to intelligence about weapons of mass destruction, it’s very important to establish the facts with certainty, and insure that the intelligence that underpins our decision-making is airtight. If we reach a definitive determination that the `red line’ has been crossed, based on corroborated evidence, then we will consult our allies, the international community and the Syrian opposition about the best course of action. Suffice to say that all options are on the table.”

National Journal notes that Qatar is a key player and pushing the U.S. to get more involved as it rallies support among Arab League nations, including Turkey, Jordan, and Lebanon. Said an ambassador of another close U.S. ally in the region: “Believe me the problems this unchecked violence is creating will eventually suck the United States into the conflict anyway as your interests are increasingly threatened, but if you continue to hesitate the costs will be much higher when you finally act.”

“Russia has informed the United States that it knew of no contact between Tamerlan Tsarnaev and any known terrorist groups during his six-month trip to Dagestan in 2012, according to an official who attended a closed-door Senate briefing Thursday morning by top counterterrorism officials,” the Boston Globe reports. “Russia provided the information to US authorities five days ago, the official said. The statements could bolster theories that Tsarnaev and his younger brother, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, were acting on their own when they allegedly planted two bombs near the finish line of the Boston Marathon on April 15, and not at the behest of any foreign terror groups. Other officials have said the Tsarnaev brothers expressed interest in radical Islam and terrorist activity over the Internet.”

The Boston Globe has the harrowing story of the man who was carjacked by the suspected Boston bombers. 

In front of nearly 10,000 gathered at Baylor University, “President Barack Obama consoled a rural Texas community rocked by a deadly fertilizer plant explosion, telling mourners Thursday they are not alone in their grief and they will have the nation’s support to rebuild from the devastation,” AP writes, adding, “Obama’s solemn reflections at the memorial required an abrupt shift in tone by the president, whose morning in Dallas was filled with smiles, music and pageantry as he and the other four living presidents celebrated one of their own. Less than an hour later, Obama was airborne over West, circling the scene of the explosion — still a harrowing site more than a week after tragedy first touched the small Texas town.”

Obama said: ‘This small town’s family is bigger now. To the families, the neighbors grappling with unbearable loss, we are here to say you are not alone. You are not forgotten. We may not all live here in Texas, but we’re neighbors too. We’re Americans too, and we stand with you.”

AP: “George W. Bush shed a sentimental tear. Barack Obama mused about the burdens of the office. Bill Clinton dished out wisecracks. Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush chimed in, too, on a rare day of harmony at the dedication of the younger Bush’s presidential library that glossed over the hard edges and partisan divides of five presidencies spanning more than three tumultuous decades.”

First Read friend Harry Enten (h/t: Political Wire): Harry Enten: "Bush's retrospective approval is the second worst among presidents in the last 50 years ago. To save you doing the math, Carter's 52% approval rating is higher than Bush's 47%. Only the Watergate-tainted Richard Nixon recorded a lower retrospective approval than Bush... Thus, not only did Bush tie for the second worst final approval rating while in office, but he is also has the second worst retrospective job approval rating."

Amy Walter on immigration reform: “The president may want a victory on immigration. But, it is Republicans who need it more. That is why this legislation can make it through the congressional thicket in a way the gun bill did not. And, it is also why it's best for the president and Democrats to do as much as possible to get out the way.”