Nevertheless, a leader who slaughtered his citizens and gassed children to death cannot regain the legitimacy to lead a badly fractured country. The notion that Syria can somehow return to a pre- war status quo is a fantasy. It’s time for Russia and Iran to realize that insisting on Assad’s rule will lead directly to the outcome that they fear: An increasingly violent space for extremists to operate.
In turn, those of us who continue to support the moderate opposition must persuade them the Syrian people can’t afford a collapse of state institutions, and that a political settlement cannot be reached without addressing the legitimate fears and concerns of Alawites and other minorities.
At the U.N. General Assembly in New York, President Obama urged the international community to help secure two sovereign, peaceful states for Israel and Palestine.
We are committed to working this political trek. And, as we pursue a settlement, let’s remember this is not a zero sum endeavor. We’re no longer in a cold war. There’s no great game to be won, nor does America have any interest in Syria beyond the well being of its people, the stability of its neighbors, the elimination of chemical weapons and insuring that it does not become a safe haven for terrorists.
I welcome the influence of all nations that can help bring about a peaceful resolution of Syria’s civil war. As we move the Geneva process forward, I urge all nations here to step up to meet humanitarian needs in Syria and surrounding countries. America’s committed over $1 billion to this effort. And today I can announce that we will be providing an additional $340 million.
No aid can take the place of a political resolution that give the Syrian people a chance to rebuild their country, but it can help desperate people to survive.
What broader conclusions can be drawn from America’s policy towards Syria? I know there are those who’ve been frustrated by our unwillingness to use our military might to depose Assad and believe that a failure to do so indicates a weakening of American resolve in the region.
Others have suggested that my willingness to direct even limited military strikes to deter the further use of chemical weapons shows we’ve learned nothing from Iraq and that America continues to seek control over the Middle East for our own purposes.
In this way, the situation in Syria mirrors the contradiction that has persisted in the region for decades. The United States is chastised for meddling in the region, accused of having a hand in all manner of conspiracy, at the same time the United States is blamed for failing to do enough to solve the region’s problems and for showing indifference towards suffering Muslim populations.
I realize some of this is inevitable, giving -- given America’s role in the world. But these contradictory attitudes have a practical impact on the American people’s support for our involvement in the region and allow leaders in the region, as well as the international community sometimes, to avoid addressing difficult problems themselves.
So let me take this opportunity to outline what has been U.S. policy toward the Middle East and North Africa and what will be my policy during the remainder of my presidents (sic).