President Barack Obama fired back at critics of what was a shifting policy toward U.S. involvement in Syria over the past few weeks, telling ABC’s George Stephanopoulos that he doesn’t care about being graded on “style points.”
He also took a shot at Russian President Vladimir Putin’s controversial op-ed in the New York Times last week, but he also said he “welcomed” his involvement in a deal brokered by the U.S. and Russia to rid Syria of its chemical weapons stockpile.
“Folks here in Washington like to grade on style,” Obama said in an interview on ABC’s “This Week.”
“And so had we rolled out something that was very smooth and disciplined and — linear — they would have graded it well, even if it was a disastrous policy. We know that, because that’s exactly how they graded the Iraq War — until it ended up blowing up in our face.”
The U.S.-Russia deal, the framework of which was agreed to on Saturday, was the end of a furious few weeks surrounding the crisis in Syria.
At the start of it, Obama prepared the U.S. for military intervention in Syria. He went into this week desperately trying to swing votes from members of Congress to authorise military force in Syria. But what was an apparent offhanded comment from Secretary of State John Kerry led to Syria being willing to acknowledge and surrender its chemical-weapons stockpiles.
Obama has found plenty of criticism, especially from Republicans, on his constant shifts. Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) called it “meaningless” in a statement on Saturday. Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), the chair of the House Intelligence Committee, said on CNN Sunday that it was a “Russian plan for Russian interests.”
In the interview on ABC, Obama fired back at the op-ed from Putin in the Times — one in which he challenged the idea of American “exceptionalism,” as well as the idea that Syrian rebel forces were to blame for the Aug. 21 chemical-weapons attack that spurred potential U.S. involvement.
“Well, nobody around the world takes seriously the idea that the rebels were the perpetrators of this — ” Obama said.
“He wrote it in The New York Times,” Stephanopoulos said.
“Well, I understand,” Obama said. “What I said is nobody around the world takes seriously the idea that the rebels perpetrated this attack.”
Obama said Putin is “protecting” Assad. But he said that he has told Putin of both countries’ common interest in preventing “chaos” and terrorism.
“The situation in Syria right now is untenable. As long as Mr. Assad’s in power, there is going be some sort of conflict there,” Obama said.
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