Rhodes Discussed President Obama's Administration's Decision not to Take Military Action in Syria even as War Continues and Concerns about Iran's Influence
Interview Will Air on Al Jazeera's "Min Washington" with Abderrahim Foukara on Tuesday, July 5th at 15:05 GMT, with Excerpts Currently Airing on Other Al Jazeera News Programs
Al Jazeera's Washington, D.C. bureau chief, Abderrahim Foukara, conducted an interview with Ben Rhodes, Assistant to the President and Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications and Speechwriting in President Obama's Administration, during the Global Entrepreneurship Summit ("GES") in Silicon Valley, which concluded on Friday. Al Jazeera was the international broadcasting partner to GES. Highlights of the interview, focused on the war in Syria, appear below.
The 14-minute interview will air in full on the Al Jazeera Arabic program "Min Washington" on Tuesday, July 5th at 15:05 GMT and will be re-broadcast on Wednesday July 6th at 07:05 GMT and Thursday July 7th at 22:05 GMT. Additionally, excerpts are currently running on Al Jazeera's news programs in both English and Arabic, and included on AJ+, the Network's widely viewed online news platform. It will also air in full on Al Jazeera English.
On President Obama becoming increasingly resolved, after five years of war in Syria, that he will not take military action, Rhodes said:
"If we felt like there was a military option that could succeed, if we felt like there was a force, a military option that had a strong domestic and international legal basis that had a clear plan for how we were going to see it through, that could address the underlying political questions that have fueled the Syrian civil war, we would be open to that. The President has used military force in many different countries including North Africa and Libya. The fact of the matter is, it's not simply because we are concerned about the enormous resource allocations that go with that type of military action. It's because the President has not seen a plan that he believes successfully can bring an end to the conflict, and we believe ultimately that's going to need a political framework."
On calls from the region and even US diplomats who want the Obama Administration to take a more robust position regarding President Assad, Rhodes said:
"I think when you look at the specific question of how do we deal with Bashar Al Assad, it's been our long standing position that he should leave power, that any political transition has to include him departing power, that we have supported groups inside of Syria who oppose Bashar Al Assad. At the same time, we very much welcome the views expressed in that dissent cable. We have had open debates as a government for many years. The problem that we see is, we don't believe that there is a US imposed military solution that can resolve the situation in Syria."
On relations with Iran getting closer and criticism that the Obama Administration is allowing Iran to continue its influence in Syria, Rhodes commented:
"With respect to Iran, we have been very clear here that we reached an agreement that we saw as very positive but focused on one issue; the nuclear issue, and that is not a symbol of a broader rapprochement. We are actually acting in opposition to Iranian policies in many parts of the region. We do believe that the nuclear deal was worth it. And I think that even if you assign the worst intentions to the Iranians, you would want them to not have a nuclear weapon, because if you take everything that they are doing in the region today that is troubling and you put a nuclear umbrella essentially over that, that would be much more destabilizing and dangerous even in the very difficult circumstances we have today."
Highlights of Al Jazeera's Coverage at the GES
Al Jazeera was the international broadcasting partner to GES, which included, among other global future-oriented events, President Obama hosting a roundtable for entrepreneurs from around the world, including Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook. Al Jazeera covered these events, as part of its in-depth reporting over the course of this critical three-day, knowledge-sharing event.
Included in this reporting as well, Foukara interviewed U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and AJ+ hosted its first-ever Facebook Live interview with Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Richard Stengel.
The interview with Secretary Kerry will air in full on "Min Washington" on Tuesday July 5th at 11:05 PM ET and will be re-broadcast on Wednesday and Thursday of that week. Additionally, excerpts are currently running on Al Jazeera's news programs in both English and Arabic, and being included on AJ+. It will also air in full on Al Jazeera English.