Clinton calls on Obama to act forcefully in Syria

Former US president sides with Republican Senator John McCain, urges aid to rebels to counter Russia, Iran, Hezbollah.

June 13, 2013 17:33
1 minute read.
Former US president Bill Clinton [file].

Bill Clinton 370. (photo credit: REUTERS/Steve Marcus)

WASHINGTON - Speaking to a private audience in New York on Wednesday, Bill Clinton said that US President Barack Obama risks looking like "a total fool" if he chooses to follow opinion polls on American involvement in Syria too closely when deciding US policy on the conflict.

Speaking broadly about the pitfalls of such tactics from the Oval Office, the former president cited his failures in Bosnia and Kosovo as examples, reported Politico, a political news publication based in Washington that acquired audio tape of the event.

During the nadirs of those conflicts, Clinton was extremely reluctant to engage US troops. But he has repeatedly said in interviews since leaving office that he regrets his handling of America's response, both to the wars in Europe and also to the genocide in Rwanda.

"Some people say, ‘Okay, see what a big mess it is? Stay out!’ I think that’s a big mistake,” Clinton said. “Sometimes it’s just best to get caught trying, as long as you don’t overcommit— like, as long as you don’t make an improvident commitment.”

Clinton was speaking at an event with John McCain, who recently visited with rebel forces inside Syria. McCain has consistently chided Obama for "fiddling" while Syria "burns," calling for a more hands-on effort to oust Bashar Assad and his government.

“Nobody is asking for American soldiers in Syria,” Clinton said. “The only question is now that the Russians, the Iranians and the Hezbollah are in there head over heels, 90 miles to nothing, should we try to do something to try to slow their gains and rebalance the power so that these rebel groups have a decent chance, if they’re supported by a majority of the people, to prevail?” Clinton's comments come as President Obama is expected to decide this week whether to change course on US policy in Syria, after a series of rebel losses to Assad in the country's heartland.

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