President Barack Obama was dismissive of proposals from his former secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, for a no-fly zone in Syria to battle the Islamic State, asserting, “ISIL doesn't have an air force.”
However, he credited South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, who suspended his presidential campaign Monday, with at least providing a solution.
Obama made the comments talking about a number of topics to National Public Radio, in a pre-recorded interview broadcast Monday.
Clinton, the leading Democratic presidential candidate, called last month for a no-fly zone in a national security address.
“Leading candidates in both parties have suggested in one way or another that they want to be more active against this threat. You have argued for the approach that you are taking and that too much action would be unwise," NPR's Steve Inskeep said to Obama. "What advice would you give whoever you are going to turn this room over to in a year or so?”
Inskeep added, “Hillary Clinton spoke about no-fly zones.”
Obama said he’s heard two things candidates talk about.
“One would be we're just going to bomb more, and that I would advise is not a wise course,” Obama said. “You bomb ISIL. You're not trying to bomb innocent people and that requires intelligence and confidence in our military to be able to develop the kinds of targets that we need.”
“The other new thing that people have suggested would be some variation of the no-fly zone or a safe zone,” Obama continued. “This is something we've been talking about for three or four years. The challenge there is that ISIL doesn't have an air force, so the damage done there is not against ISIL, it's against the Syrian regime.”
Obama said that Secretary of State John Kerry is making progress in bringing Iranians and Russians together to end the Syrian civil war.
Obama criticized Republican opponents for attacking his policy, but not providing their own solution.
“Well, when you listen to them, though, and you ask, well, what exactly are you talking about? Well, we are going to bomb more,” Obama said. “Well, who is it you are going to bomb? Where is it that you are going to bomb? When you talk about something like carpet bombing, what do you mean?”
Obama actually credited Graham, who has called for ground troops in Iraq and Syria to combat the Islamic State.
“What's interesting is that most of the critics have not called for ground forces,” Obama said. “To his credit, I think Lindsey Graham is one of the few who has been at least honest about suggesting, here is something I would do that the president is not doing. He doesn't just talk about being louder or sounding tougher in the process.”