White House pushes back on report of top aide saying he's 'not proud' of US policy in Syria

The White House is pushing back on a report in The Daily Beast that quotes top national -security official Ben Rhodes saying that he’s “not proud” of US policy in Syria.

The Daily Beast quoted Rhodes as telling Syrian-American activists at an event Wednesday that the US doesn’t have “any good options” in Syria.

“We aren’t proud of our Syria policy — but we don’t have any good options … nothing we could have done would have made things better,” Rhodes reportedly said, according to three people present at the event who spoke to the publication.

He reportedly added, referring to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad: “We’re not the ones killing Syrians. Assad is the one killing people.”

Ned Price, the spokesman for the White House’s National Security Council, told Business Insider in a statement that Rhodes “in no way indicted or distanced himself from our Syria policy.”

“He has consistently explained US policy toward the conflict, which is what he did in this case (as evidenced by the other quotes),” Price said. “What is true is that he lamented the level of suffering the Syrian people have endured.”

The US has faced criticism over its Syria policy and its reluctance to try to force Assad, whose forces have massacred thousands of civilians, from power.

One activist at the event, Ibrahim Rahmani, a fellow at the Middle East Institute, told The Daily Beast that he spoke to Rhodes at the event.

“I told him I’m disgusted with his policy and that he doesn’t care about Syrian lives,” Rahmani said.

Here’s Price’s full statement:

Ben in no way indicted or distanced himself from our Syria policy. He has consistently explained U.S. policy toward the conflict, which is what he did in this case (as evidenced by the other quotes). What is true is that he lamented the level of suffering the Syrian people have endured.

Beyond that, we will not rebut point by point a secondhand account of an impromptu conversation that took place two days ago following an award ceremony honouring Ben. Ben has repeatedly made the point that the United States will continue to do everything we can, in concert with our international partners, to alleviate the suffering of the Syrian people, who have been brutalized at the hands of the Assad regime and, in other regions, ISIL. He also explained, as he has done publicly many times before, why we have not pursued additional military action against Assad, including a no-fly zone; we see no military solution to the civil war. We all acknowledge the tremendous suffering of the Syrian people, and no one should be satisfied with the status quo. That’s why we continue to work toward a transition away from Assad just as we prosecute a relentless campaign against ISIL.

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