Former President Barack Obama claimed in a recent interview that his decision to not bomb Syria in 2013 after the Bashar al-Assad regime used chemical weapons on its own people — despite his promise to do so — “required the most political courage.”
Obama made his comments earlier this month in an interview with Jack Schlossberg, the grandson of former President John F. Kennedy, while discussing political courage.
“I actually think that the issue that required the most political courage was the decision not to bomb Syria after the chemical weapons use had been publicized and rather to negotiate them removing chemical weapons from Syria,” Obama said, according to a transcript of the interview.
“Now, we know subsequently that some remained, so it was an imperfect solution. But what we also know is that 99 percent of huge chemical weapons stockpiled were removed without having to fire a shot,” the former president explained.
“The reason it was hard was because, as president, what you discover is that you generally get praised for taking military action, and you’re often criticized for not doing so,” Obama continued. “And it wasn’t a slam dunk, but I thought that it made sense for a variety of reasons for us to see if we could actually try to eliminate the prospect of large-scale chemical weapons use rather than the political expedience of a one-time shot.”
Obama’s decision to not retaliate against the Assad regime following the 2013 chemical weapons attack on the Syrian city of Ghouta, which left more than 1,000 people dead, according to U.S. military estimates, was one of the most controversial decisions of Obama’s tenure in the White House.
That’s because in 2012, Obama announced his so-called “red line” policy in Syria, where he promised to strike the Syrian regime if they again used chemical weapons against its own people, who have been in the midst of a civil war for more than a half decade.
Instead of following through with his promise, Obama, with the help of Russia, made a deal with Assad that allegedly got Assad to agree to give up his chemical weapons stockpile. The Obama administration lauded the move, arguing they killed two birds with one stone by not only removing Assad’s chemical weapons stockpile, but doing so without firing a single bullet or missile.
Now, of course, we know that Obama’s deal did not force Assad to relinquish the totality of his chemical weapons stockpile after he again used them against his own people in April. Following the attack, President Donald Trump responded with force, sending dozens of tomahawk missiles to strike the airbase where Assad launched the attack. Trump was commended for the decision.
Afterward, former Obama administration officials admitted they knew their deal hadn’t forced Assad to completely destroy or turn over his weapons stockpile, but Obama and other top officials like former national security adviser Susan Rice and former Secretary of State John Kerry lied to the American public anyway.
Obama was honored with the John F. Kennedy Library’s annual “Profile in Courage” award on May 7.