(WASHINGTON) — Despite horrific violence in Syria, the administration has the right approach to that civil war, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters Wednesday.
The administration has brought Syria’s regime and opposition together for talks in Geneva that have been marred by animosity and have failed to produce a meaningful agreement on ceasefires or any tangible access for aid to war-torn cities.
“Can I say that the Syrian civil war has ended? No. Can I say that the two sides have met for the first time? Yes. That’s modest progress, to be sure, with an emphasis on ‘modest,’” Carney said, when asked if the U.S. has the “right policy” on Syria. Carney noted that the U.S. is the largest supplier of humanitarian aid to Syria.
In a nationally televised address in September, President Obama announced his intention to intervene in Syria militarily, with airstrikes. That intention was thwarted when Congress sided overwhelmingly against authorizing military force, after Obama had decided to seek congressional approval for any strikes.
The Obama administration has repeatedly said it has not taken the military option “off the table” — despite little evidence of a stronger appetite in Congress for such action.
In promoting the administration’s Syria policy — promotion of talks, lots of humanitarian aid, support for the moderate opposition coalition, and, reportedly, CIA provision of arms to rebels — Carney said he sought “to contrast that with those who I think honestly come by and support a different position, which involves in some cases the use of U.S. troops or…other U.S. military assets, or different” stance. Carney was responding to a question about criticism of Obama’s Syria policy by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.
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Tal Kopan and Jeremy Diamond, CNN
David Chalian, CNN
Scott Stuntz, Teton Valley News
Jeremy Diamond, CNN