On Syria, Bill Clinton says Obama decision 'trending in right direction'
June 14th, 2013
09:23 AM ET
1 year ago

On Syria, Bill Clinton says Obama decision 'trending in right direction'

(CNN) – After expressing disagreement with President Barack Obama's reticence toward further U.S. action in Syria, former President Bill Clinton said Friday he welcomed news that the United States would begin taking a larger role in assisting opposition forces in the conflict-torn nation.

Clinton's earlier remarks came ahead of Thursday's White House announcement that the Syrian regime had crossed a "red line" by using chemical weapons, a conclusion that will prompt the U.S. to increase the "size and scope" of its assistance to rebels battling President Bashar al-Assad.

"It looks to me like this thing is trending in the right direction," Clinton said on MSNBC.

"I think on balance this should be seen as a positive story, that America has information now about the chemical attacks, they clearly know that there are other outside powers trying to shore up Assad and his repressive tactics," Clinton continued.

Earlier this week, Clinton said at a private session alongside Sen. John McCain that he agreed with the Arizona Republican's calls for a greater U.S. role in assisting Syrian rebels, which differed from Obama's more cautious stance.

"Some people say, 'Okay, see what a big mess it is? Stay out!' I think that's a big mistake. I agree with you about this," Clinton said, referring to McCain, who visited with rebel commanders in Syria earlier this month.

Clinton, whose comments were reported by Politico and later confirmed to CNN by a person present at the event, said he would stop short of sending American soldiers to Syria, but that some American intervention is required to prevent outside forces like Hezbollah from getting a foothold in the region.

Comparing the decision Obama faced to his own experience with conflicts in Bosnia and Kosovo, Clinton said it was a mistake to adhere too closely to public opinion polls.

"What the American people are saying when they tell you not to do these things, they're not telling you not to do these things," Clinton said, according to Politico. "They hire you to win … to look around the corner and see down the road."

On Thursday, the White House acknowledged the Syrian government has used chemical weapons, including the nerve agent sarin, on a small scale a number of times.

The administration indicated it will increase the "scope and scale of assistance" to rebels in Syria following that acknowledgment, though stopped short of saying it will put weapons in the hands of rebels.

Clinton said Friday it was wise for the White House to withhold specifics about America's increased role in Syria.

"They don't want to talk about details and I don't blame them because the less they talk about the details, the more likely the increases assistance is likely to be effective," he said.


Filed under: Bill Clinton • President Obama • Syria
soundoff (24 Responses)
  1. jpmichigan

    There is one problem with arming Syrian rebels, some of them are Al Queda in Syrian clothing just like in Egypt, Libya, Iraq and Afganistan. Then the turn on Americans once the rid themselves of dictators. Al Queda will then own the area close and near to Isreal. We need to stop the supply on money to nations that hate us, Libya., Egypt, Iraq and Afganistan.

    June 14, 2013 09:31 am at 9:31 am |
  2. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA -aka- Take Back The House -aka- No Redemption Votes

    "What the American people are saying when they tell you not to do these things, they're not telling you not to do these things,"
    --------------------------------------------
    Sorry Bubba. When we tell you not to do a thing, we mean DO NOT DO A THING. There needs to be more attempts at a diplomatic solution with Russia & our allies in the region before considering arming the rebels. I recall arming some rebels in Afghanistan a few decades ago and that didn't turn out to well for us now did it?

    June 14, 2013 09:34 am at 9:34 am |
  3. Anonymous

    Sorry, Bill Clinton. I am not interested in saving the world. We have enough problems of our own here in America to deal with. There will never be a global uniting of the minds. It just is not going to happen. Now do, please, stick to making money. You are very good at fooling people. So is Hillary.

    June 14, 2013 09:45 am at 9:45 am |
  4. ge

    the al quaeda leader ship got to be smiling to-day

    June 14, 2013 09:57 am at 9:57 am |
  5. Data Driven

    Heyyyy, my fellow liberals - NOW do you remember this Bill Clinton? The neoconservative Bill Clinton? Well, bear in mind that his wife is on the same page when it comes to foreign policy. Y'know, before you break out your "Hillary 16" straw party hats, and all ...

    Meanwhile, nice flurry of shivving the President in the back, Bill. Some old scores can finally be settled, eh? Let the Great Distancing begin!

    June 14, 2013 10:10 am at 10:10 am |
  6. saywhat

    Iraq,Afghanistan.Libya & now Syria. Would we ever learn?
    Or are proxy wars & militarism our destiny written in Tel Aviv??

    June 14, 2013 10:10 am at 10:10 am |
  7. Thomas

    It's easier for Mr.Bill to share his Enlightenment now that he is no longer president .

    Mr. Bill was a day late and a dollar short in the former Yugoslavia , and a complete no show in Rwanda .

    That was before Bill went Vegan !

    June 14, 2013 10:13 am at 10:13 am |
  8. Steveo

    I am afraid this is going to end badly. We have a history of supporting dictators who over time came after us or turn their backs on us:

    We supported Bin Laden and his crew when the fought the USSR in Afghanistan
    We supported Saddam when he fought Iran
    We supported the Shah of Iran
    We supported Diem in Vietnam
    We supported Norriega in Panama
    We supported Marcos in the Philippines

    Here we go again!

    June 14, 2013 10:17 am at 10:17 am |
  9. rs

    I am not sure I agree. As many as 100,000 may be dead in Syria as the result of their civil war. If it becomes a proxy war (the U.S. supporting the vaguely Al Queda-like rebels, and the Russians supporting the dictator) all we will manage to do is make the arms dealers wealthier, and more efficiently kill more people. At best this will be a costly standoff and at worst it is the road to escalation with American boots on the ground.If we are as broke financially as everyone says, perhaps we ought to sit this one out and encourage a different line of attack to bring peace to that area.

    June 14, 2013 10:19 am at 10:19 am |
  10. just sayin

    On Syria, Bill Clinton says Obama decision 'trending in right direction'
    ---

    no billy boy... it is called leading from behind. please get with the program.

    obama is no leader and proves it every day. he thinks the usa is the cause of all the worlds problems and toured the globe apologizing for our country's horrible past transgressions. the guy is a total loser when it comes to leading and tough decisions. just ask the families of the 4 dead americans in the benghazi fiasco.

    June 14, 2013 10:22 am at 10:22 am |
  11. truth hurts but reality bites

    All too many times the choice comes down between siding with a really bad person/group or siding with a really, really bad person/group. You must choose between the lesser of two evils as their is no George Washington over there to side with.

    Not choosing to support one side, while your enemies support the other side guarantees the outcome willnot be in our country's best interest. Right now we know if Assad wins, the Russians win, the Iranians win big time, Hezbollah wins big time, and millions of Syrians that have fled the country will destablize Turkey and Jordan.

    Right now it is in our country's best interest to take Assad out and sort through all the other problems later. Wars are messy by nature. Outcomes are never clear. What is clear though is if Assad wins, we lose and our enemies win big time.

    June 14, 2013 10:31 am at 10:31 am |
  12. saywhat

    How about the Iraq & Afghanistan fiascos? @just sayin. Thousands of Americans dead, thousands scarred for life, thousands amputated. trillions of dollars of our national treasure gone, billions unaccounted for. The repercussions to haunt us for decades.
    Then we led from frontal insanity. "Mission accomplished".

    June 14, 2013 10:32 am at 10:32 am |
  13. saywhat

    The Saudi-Israel bedding initiated the Syrian implosion both for their own agendas and we had to tag along.
    Military involvement in Syria would be a folly we can hardly afford.

    June 14, 2013 10:35 am at 10:35 am |
  14. Nnakwu

    good intentions are not always great intentions , when u arm this rebels how do u intend disarming them; saddams long dead and iraq is still dying

    June 14, 2013 10:36 am at 10:36 am |
  15. Thomas

    @just sayin
    On Syria, Bill Clinton says Obama decision 'trending in right direction'
    -

    no billy boy... it is called leading from behind. please get with the program.

    obama is no leader and proves it every day. he thinks the usa is the cause of all the worlds problems and toured the globe apologizing for our country's horrible past transgressions. the guy is a total loser when it comes to leading and tough decisions. just ask the families of the 4 dead americans in the benghazi fiasco.
    =====

    Is it , you are so misinformed ,or your hate for the president over takes your ability to think ?

    A shooting at a St. Louis business Thursday that left four people dead appears to be a murder-suicide, a police official said.

    How many people died in Benghazi doing there job ?

    The only leader you ever have known is GW Bush , and he was not a leader , he was a not to bright wealthy teen in a mans body .

    June 14, 2013 10:40 am at 10:40 am |
  16. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    Say Bill? Shut up. Sit down.
    You had your two terms.
    You keep running your mouth backstabbing the Prez in the back and Hillary is not going to make it, believe that.

    June 14, 2013 10:48 am at 10:48 am |
  17. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    The President's numbers in regards to his handling of foreing affairs are through the roof Billy-Bob.
    So shut up shutting up, you're getting sloppy and giddy about returning to White House.

    June 14, 2013 10:53 am at 10:53 am |
  18. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    Foreign. Foreign. Foreign. Pardon

    June 14, 2013 10:54 am at 10:54 am |
  19. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    saywhat said;
    Then we led from frontal insanity. "Mission accomplished".
    -------------------------------------------------
    Your post was on point, wasted on the intended recipient, but excellent nonetheless. And that line about "frontal insanity" was priceless.

    June 14, 2013 11:03 am at 11:03 am |
  20. just asyin

    well, by obama's own statements we will now become involved in syria. he said if assad used wmd then it would be a game changer. and now it has been determined they did use wmd. time for our empty suited leader from behind to put up or shut up. will he actually do something or prove to the world that he is nothing more than a wind bag full of empty rhetoric?

    June 14, 2013 11:14 am at 11:14 am |
  21. Tony

    Shut up bubba i disagree with you on that no more wars no more arming rebels let them figure this out for themselves, do not arm terrorists, let them duke it out i do not care chemical weapons were used, or is still being used, just monitor the situation closely,and make sure those chemical weapons do not get into the hands of terrorist. If it does let it stay in Syria i would even say nuke their asses. Sorry fellow posters that's just how i feel.

    June 14, 2013 11:23 am at 11:23 am |
  22. rs

    Not choosing to support one side, while your enemies support the other side guarantees the outcome willnot be in our country's best interest. Right now we know if Assad wins, the Russians win, the Iranians win big time, Hezbollah wins big time, and millions of Syrians that have fled the country will destablize Turkey and Jordan.
    _____________________________________
    Your assessment may be correct. But how do we square supporting Al Queda offshoots, and going against Syria's Christian population? The results in this case may be as bad as NOT supporting the rebels.

    June 14, 2013 11:25 am at 11:25 am |
  23. Fair is Fair

    He's a lot like you, Bubba... you bombed an aspirin factory when things got rough for you, and he'll do something similar in Syria now that his kitchen is a little warm. It's all about the distraction, baby!

    June 14, 2013 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  24. Wake up People!

    Alright Bill.

    I'm still trying to figure out why in the hell America, who is already involved in two wars, has to be the world police??

    Seriously, how does one determine who are the good people and who are the bad when they all look the same and have no problem killing anyone? I'm sick of people calling President Obama weak simply because he's not ready to start another war. But why should I be surprised since that's their MO? Just look how they got this country.....

    June 14, 2013 11:27 am at 11:27 am |