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The Fingerpointing Begins: House Armed Services Chairman Slams Obama's Syria Policy

Yesterday we showed the full transcript of Barack Obama's surreal, confrontational, stuttering 60 Minutes interview, specifically the part dealing with the US foreign policy fiasco in Syria, and by implication, with Vladimir Putin.

For those who missed it, please watch it here. Below we have transcribed the key section which is must read for anyone curious what it looks like when the president of a formerly undisputed superpower of a unipolar world, is clutching at straws (or as far left website Vox put it, delivering "sick burns"), and in this case, clutching at the place where the teleprompter stood for advice on how to make Putin appear to be the loser in two conflicts which have either expanded Russia's geographic territory or have boosted Russian sphere of influence by orders of magnitude in the middle ease.

Steve Kroft: A year ago when we did this interview, there was some saber-rattling between the United States and Russia on the Ukrainian border. Now it's also going on in Syria. You said a year ago that the United States-- America leads. We're the indispensible nation. Mr. Putin seems to be challenging that leadership.


President Barack Obama: In what way? Let-- let's think about this-- let-- let--


Steve Kroft: Well, he's moved troops into Syria, for one. He's got people on the ground. Two, the Russians are conducting military operations in the Middle East for the first time since World War II--


President Barack Obama: So that's--


Steve Kroft: --bombing the people-- that we are supporting.


President Barack Obama: So that's leading, Steve? Let me ask you this question. When I came into office, Ukraine was governed by a corrupt ruler who was a stooge of Mr. Putin. Syria was Russia's only ally in the region. And today, rather than being able to count on their support and maintain the base they had in Syria, which they've had for a long time, Mr. Putin now is devoting his own troops, his own military, just to barely hold together by a thread his sole ally.

And in Ukraine--


Steve Kroft: He's challenging your leadership, Mr. President. He's challenging your leadership--


President Barack Obama: Well Steve, I got to tell you, if you think that running your economy into the ground and having to send troops in in order to prop up your only ally is leadership, then we've got a different definition of leadership. My definition of leadership would be leading on climate change, an international accord that potentially we'll get in Paris. My definition of leadership is mobilizing the entire world community to make sure that Iran doesn't get a nuclear weapon. And with respect to the Middle East, we've got a 60-country coalition that isn't suddenly lining up around Russia's strategy. To the contrary, they are arguing that, in fact, that strategy will not work.


Steve Kroft: My point is-- was not that he was leading, my point is that he was challenging your leadership. And he has very much involved himself in the situation. Can you imagine anything happening in Syria of any significance at all without the Russians now being involved in it and having a part of it?


President Barack Obama: But that was true before. Keep in mind that for the last five years, the Russians have provided arms, provided financing, as have the Iranians, as has Hezbollah.


Steve Kroft: But they haven't been bombing and they haven't had troops on the ground--


President Barack Obama: And the fact that they had to do this is not an indication of strength, it's an indication that their strategy did not work.


Steve Kroft: You don't think--


President Barack Obama: You don't think that Mr. Putin would've preferred having Mr. Assad be able to solve this problem without him having to send a bunch of pilots and money that they don't have?


Steve Kroft: Did you know he was going to do all this when you met with him in New York?


President Barack Obama: Well, we had seen-- we had pretty good intelligence. We watch--


Steve Kroft: So you knew he was planning to do it.


President Barack Obama: We knew that he was planning to provide the military assistance that Assad was needing because they were nervous about a potential imminent collapse of the regime.


Steve Kroft: You say he's doing this out of weakness. There is a perception in the Middle East among our adversaries, certainly and even among some of our allies that the United States is in retreat, that we pulled our troops out of Iraq and ISIS has moved in and taken over much of that territory. The situation in Afghanistan is very precarious and the Taliban is on the march again. And ISIS controls a large part of Syria.


President Barack Obama: I think it's fair to say, Steve, that if--


Steve Kroft: It's-- they-- let me just finish the thought. They say your--


President Barack Obama: You're--


Steve Kroft: --they say you're projecting a weakness, not a strength--


President Barack Obama: --you're saying "they," but you're not citing too many folks.

While there's much more humiliation piled upon embarrassment for the president (or as a ranked democrat put it previously, handing over Syria to Putin on a silver platter is "letting him hang himself") we'll stop there and instead cite one highly placed "folk" who in the aftermath of Obama's gruesome performance, decided to provide Russian media with just the soundbites they will need to make Putin's triumph complete, when the Chairman of the House Armed Services, Mac Thornberry, slammed the Obama administration's policy on Syria in an interview published Monday. 

Thornberry called the White House's recently canceled $500 million program to train and equip 5,400 Syrian rebels "a complete failure", The Hill reports, and said the president has not yet presented any plan that has any signs of making a difference in the region. 

"As a matter of fact, it’s going the other way,” he told the Times Record News. “As time goes on, the options for Syria get worse and worse. I think it’s getting harder and harder to see a way forward here."

Furthermore, as we have repeatedly warned, the chairman is concerned about Russian airstrikes in Syria to shore up Syrian President Bashar Assad and the possibility of an accident escalating into something bigger, the paper reported.

He said Russia's involvement in the conflict would only worsen sectarian fighting in the region.  "It is only going to inflame the Sunni versus Shia aspects of this conflict and may drive some of the Sunni countries to ratchet it up," he said.


But the peak in embarrassment came with Thornberry told the paper that he could not recall anytime during his 20 years in Congress where Russia or any other country told the U.S. when and where American forces could fly in another country.

There  is always a first time for everything, and just in case Mac didn't read our article from Friday, the same week as Russia telling the US where to fly, China told the US not only are US warships not welcome next to the disputed islands in the South China Sea, but that China will not tolerate any provocations on its territorial waters. 

Perhaps the only left way for Obama to save face will be to start World War III? Just think of the upside in the S&P - all those broken Keynesian windows...