President Obama says he told Russian President Vladimir Putin the only way to solve the problem in Syria is a political transition that keeps the state and military intact, but is inclusive with President Assad transitioning out of power. (Reuters)
In his first remarks on Syria since Russian airstrikes began, President Obama said the United States would continue its fight against Islamic State fighters and other extremists, but said “we’re not going to make Syria into a proxy war between the United States and Russia.”
The president advocated international negotiations to forge a coalition government from Syria’s warring factions, but he warned that Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad must leave office at the end of any transition talks.
“The problem here is Assad and the brutality he has inflicted on the Syrian people, and it has to stop,” Obama said during a White House press conference Friday. “We are not going to cooperate with a Russian campaign to simply try to destroy anybody who is disgusted and fed up with Mr. Assad’s behavior.”
He said Russian President Vladimir Putin had to step up military activities in Syria not out of strength but out of weakness and because Assad’s government was failing.
“A military solution alone, an attempt by Russia and Iran to prop up Assad and try to pacify the population, is just going to get them stuck in a quagmire, and it won’t work and they will be there for a while if they don’t take a different course,” Obama said.
Obama defended his decision not to get more involved in the Syrian conflict, including by sending more weapons and American troops.
The president said, “I have to make a judgment based on once we start something we have to finish it and do it well, and do we in fact have the resources and the capacity to make a serious impact, understanding that we still have to go after ISIL in Iraq and an Iraqi military weaker than any of us had perceived.”
Amid the wave of refugees fleeing the region, Obama said: “I am under no illusions about what an incredible humanitarian catastrophe this has been.” He called the images of children who have drowned seeking safe havens “heartbreaking.”
He dismissed some proposals for other, more aggressive strategies in Syria as “half-baked ideas” and …Read More