Obama Admits 'Moderate' Syrian Rebels a 'Fantasy' -
Politico - In a wide-ranging interview with The New York Times, President Barack Obama defended his administration’s foreign-policy approach in the Middle East. In Syria, Obama said the idea that arming rebels would have made a difference has “always been a fantasy.”
The president’s interview with op-ed columnist Thomas Friedman, published online Friday, offered an inherent rebuke of Hillary Clinton, whose memoir revealed that the former secretary of state wanted to arm moderate Syrian rebels in the nascent stages of the war. In a newly published interview with The Atlantic given before Obama’s interview, Hillary Clinton said the failure to build a strong rebel force against the Assad regime “left a big vacuum, which the jihadists have now filled.”
The president, though not mentioning his former secretary of state by name, said such a plan was unlikely to work and was never going to happen.
“This idea that we could provide some light arms or even more sophisticated arms to what was essentially an opposition made up of former doctors, farmers, pharmacists and so forth, and that they were going to be able to battle not only a well-armed state but also a well-armed state backed by Russia, backed by Iran, a battle-hardened Hezbollah, that was never in the cards,” the president said.
When asked to explain the U.S. military response to the humanitarian crisis unfolding in the mountains of northern Iraq, Obama said there’s “an obligation” to prevent genocide of the Yazidis at the hands of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. Obama repeated the line that he doesn’t want the U.S. to become the Kurdish air force, adding that it’s up to Iraqis to unify and maintain a stable government.
“We’re not going to let [ISIL] create some caliphate through Syria and Iraq, but we can only do that if we know that we’ve got partners on the ground who are capable of filling the void,” Obama said.