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August 23, 2013

Obama defends caution on Egypt and Syria

President Obama defended his administration's approach to turmoil in Egpyt and Syria, even as he suggested the time for U.S. action is narrowing. 

Obama called the latest potential chemical weapons attack in Syria "clearly a big event of grave concern" and "very troublesome" and that U.S. officials are pushing for action from the UN -- and for the Syrian government to allow invesigators access to the site.

Obama in the interview with CNN's New Day cautioned that the "notion" that the US could solve a "sectarian, complex" conflict like Syria is "overstated," but added "when you start seeing chemical weapons used on a large scale, that starts getting to some core national interests."

"As difficult as the problem is," he said, "This is something that is going to require America's attention and hopefully the entire international community's attention." 

On Egypt, Obama said cutting aid to the military following a brutal crackdown on supporters of ousted president Mohammad Morsi, "may not reverse what the interim government does." But, he added, "I think what most Americans would say is that we have to be very careful about not being seen as aiding and abetting actions that we think run contrary to our values and our ideals."

He said the US is reviewing the $1.5 billion in mostly military aid it sends to Egpyt, adding, "there's no doubt that we can't return to business as usual, given what's happened. There was a space right after Mr. Morsi was removed in which we did a lot of heavy lifting and a lot of diplomatic work to try to encourage the military to move in a path of reconciliation. They did not take that opportunity."

Obama has faced mounting criticism for not stripping aid to Egypt and for not acting more forcefully in Syria after calling the use of chemical weapons a "red line," a year ago, but defended his policies in the interview with Chris Cuomo, saying the "American people" expect the president "to think through what we do from the perspective of our long term national interest."

The administration has raised the spectre of the war in Iraq and Obama added, "Sometimes what we've seen is that folks will call for immediate action, jumping into stuff, that does not turn out well, gets us mired in very difficult situations, can result in us being drawn into very expensive, difficult, costly interventions that actually breed more resentment in the region."

In Syria, he suggested the US needs more proof and more international partners before taking action, noting there are "rules of international law" and that "if the US goes in and attacks another country without a UN mandate and without clear evidence that can be presented, then there are questions of whether international law supports it, do we have the coalition to make it work."

The interview, which was taped Thursday in New York during Obama's two-day bus tour, aired Friday.

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Sofianitz

Truly difficult for me to agree with Barack Obama on anything, but this is it. No doubt his reservations are informed by General Martin Dempsey's warnings, and have overcome (so far) the advice of National Security Adviser Susan Rice, who along with Madeline Albright, Hillary Clinton, and Samantha Power, comprise the Four Horsewomen of the "humanitarian intervention" Apocalypse, with millions of dead around the eorld as the result so far, and more to come, just watch.

Philip

I am curious as to what President Obama means by a "better" response. The following general questions require answers re: the alleged chemical attack: who, what, when, where, how and why. So does President Obama think that the US is better equipped to quickly investigate this alleged attack than the UN? This would not be a bad thing because, if the US is willing to share resources, it could illustrate how nations can work together to determine whether or not this chemical attack was for real or a staged controversy.

Philip Henika

capnmike

We do NOT need to get involved in this. Our armed forces are here to protect AMERICA, not some gang or politician in some other country for nothing. The USA has not been attacked by another country since the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor a half-century ago (Al Qaida is NOT a "country", BTW) Yet we have wasted the lives of thousands of good American kids in Viet Nam and Korea and Eastern Europe and Iraq and etc etc for NOTHING while our country has been invaded by literally MILLIONS of illegals. Every time we send troops and aid to some other country they end up spitting on us anyway. Drooling phony macho red necks who love wars (as long as SOMEBODY ELSE does the bleeding and dying) support bums like McCain, who love to wave the banner of false patriotism and fill the heads of young kids with nonsense and buzzwords, and send them off to die so their fat country-club pals can make billions off arms sales. The USA is not, nor should it be, the world's policeman or nanny.

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