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Obama Says U.S. Working Toward Post-Assad Syria

By Karen Parrish
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 7, 2013 – President Barack Obama said today the United States has both a moral obligation and a national security interest in “ending the slaughter in Syria,” but cannot act or build consensus based on perceptions.

During a joint White House press conference with South Korean President Park Geun-hye, Obama said the two leaders discussed Syria “where both our nations are working to strengthen the opposition and plan for a Syria without Bashar Assad.”

The United States also is obliged to ensure that a post-Assad Syria is stable, with a government that represents all its people and doesn’t create chaos for its neighbors, he added.

“That's why for the last two years we have been active in trying to ensure that Bashar Assad exits the stage and that we can begin a political transition process,” Obama said. “That's the reason why we have invested so much in humanitarian aid. That's the reason why we are so invested in helping the opposition, why we've mobilized the international community, to isolate Syria. That's why we are now providing non-lethal assistance to the opposition. And that's why we're going to continue to do the work that we need to do.”

Assessing costs and benefits of action in Syria shows “there'd be severe costs in doing nothing,” Obama said.

“That's why we're not doing nothing,” he added. “That's why we are actively invested in the process.”

U.S. leaders are working “to hasten the day when we can see a better situation in Syria,” he said. “We've been doing that all along and we'll continue to do that.

While many people would understandably prefer an easy answer to the dilemma Syria poses, Obama said, “That's not the situation there.”

He added his job as president and commander in chief is to measure “our very real and legitimate humanitarian and national security interests in Syria” against “my bottom line, which is what's in the best interests of America's security.”

His decisions can’t be based on hope, Obama said, but “on hard-headed analysis in terms of what will actually make us safer and stabilize the region.”

The president acknowledged there is evidence of the use of sarin gas, a nerve agent, inside Syria, but added he can’t organize international coalitions around perceived information.

“We want to make sure that we have the best analysis possible,” he said. “We want to make sure that we are acting deliberately.”


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