Obama administration past and current views on Syria

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This page is an aggregation of statements from various members of the executive branch in regard to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and the Syrian civil war.


In March 2011, pro-democracy protests evolved in Damascus and Daraa, where political prisoners were held for speaking out against President Assad's Baathe party regime.[1] As the protests grew more popular, the government security forces cracked down, detaining some and opening fire on others in Daraa.[1][2] In May 2011, the United States ordered sanctions against the Syrian government for human rights violations, but President Assad continued his assualt on the protesters throughout Syria leaving thousands killed, according to the United Nations.[3] Throughout the rest of 2011 and until July 2012, the U.S. withdrew ambassadors and diplomats from Syria while the rebels continued to fight with pro-Assad forces.[3] In July 2012, the Syrian government threatened the use of biological and chemical weapons if outside forces invaded the country, and the following month, U.S. President Barack Obama responded that if biological or chemical weapons were used, the U.S. would reconsider its opposition to military involvement in Syria.[3] On August 21, 2013, the Syrian government was accused of a chemical weapons attack on a town in the suburbs of Damascus, killing thousands, including women and children.[3]

Statements of federal officials

Barack Obama

See also: Barack Obama


August 31, 2013
"Our intelligence shows the Assad regime and its forces preparing to use chemical weapons, launching rockets in the highly populated suburbs of Damascus, and acknowledging that a chemical weapons attack took place. And all of this corroborates what the world can plainly see -- hospitals overflowing with victims; terrible images of the dead. All told, well over 1,000 people were murdered. Several hundred of them were children -- young girls and boys gassed to death by their own government." [4][5]
"And finally, let me say this to the American people: I know well that we are weary of war. We’ve ended one war in Iraq. We’re ending another in Afghanistan. And the American people have the good sense to know we cannot resolve the underlying conflict in Syria with our military. In that part of the world, there are ancient sectarian differences, and the hopes of the Arab Spring have unleashed forces of change that are going to take many years to resolve. And that's why we’re not contemplating putting our troops in the middle of someone else’s war."[4][5]
April 30, 2013
"If we end up rushing to judgment without hard, effective evidence ... we can find ourselves in a position where we can't marshal the international community in support of what we do. It's important for us to do this in a prudent way."[6][5]


December 3, 2012
"The use of chemical weapons is, and would be, totally unacceptable and if you make the tragic mistake of using these weapons, there will be consequences and you will be held accountable."[7][5]


August 18, 2011
"The United States opposes the use of violence against peaceful protesters in Syria, and we support the universal rights of the Syrian people."[8][5]
"The future of Syria must be determined by its people, but President Bashar al-Assad is standing in their way. His calls for dialogue and reform have rung hollow while he is imprisoning, torturing, and slaughtering his own people. We have consistently said that President Assad must lead a democratic transition or get out of the way. He has not led. For the sake of the Syrian people, the time has come for President Assad to step aside."[8][5]
"The United States cannot and will not impose this transition upon Syria. It is up to the Syrian people to choose their own leaders, and we have heard their strong desire that there not be foreign intervention in their movement. What the United States will support is an effort to bring about a Syria that is democratic, just, and inclusive for all Syrians. We will support this outcome by pressuring President Assad to get out of the way of this transition, and standing up for the universal rights of the Syrian people along with others in the international community."[8][5]

John Kerry

See also: John Kerry


September 9, 2013

{{Quote|"We will be able to hold Bashar al-Assad accountable without engaging in troops on the ground or any other prolonged kind of effort in a very limited, very targeted, short-term effort that degrades his capacity to deliver chemical weapons without assuming responsibility for Syria's civil war. That is exactly what we are talking about doing – unbelievably small, limited kind of effort."[9]

August 30, 2013
"Well, we know that the Assad regime has the largest chemical weapons programs in the entire Middle East. We know that the regime has used those weapons multiple times this year, and has used them on a smaller scale but still it has used them against its own people, including not very far from where last Wednesday's attack happened."[10][5]
"It matters because if we choose to live in the world where a thug and a murderer like Bashar al-Assad can gas thousands of his own people with impunity, even after the United States and our allies said no, and then the world does nothing about it, there will be no end to the test of our resolve and the dangers that will flow from those others who believe that they can do as they will."[10][5]


March 29, 2011
On whether the U.S should use sanctions or raise the Syrian violence to the United Nations, "I think it's premature." ... "You have to see what develops in the next hours. It could reach that point. I don’t think that with this fact pattern that is the choice to make."[11][5]
March 16, 2011
In response to a question about encouraging democracy in Syria, "But President Assad has been very generous with me in terms of the discussions we have had. And when I last went to – the last several trips to Syria – I asked President Assad to do certain things to build the relationship with the United States and sort of show the good faith that would help us to move the process forward."[12][5]

Chuck Hagel

See also: Chuck Hagel


September 3, 2013
"This risk of chemical weapons proliferation poses a direct threat to our friends and partners and to U.S. personnel in the region. We cannot afford for Hezbollah or any terrorist group determined to strike the United States to have incentives to acquire or use chemical weapons."[13][5]
April 25, 2013
"This morning, the White House delivered a letter to several members of Congress on the topic of chemical weapons use in Syria. The letter, which will be made available to you here shortly, states that the U.S. intelligence community assesses with some degree of varying confidence that the Syrian regime has used chemical weapons on a small scale in Syria, specifically the chemical agent sarin."[14][5]
"We cannot confirm the origin of these weapons, but we do believe that any use of chemical weapons in Syria would very likely have originated with the Assad regime."[14][5]

Hillary Clinton


September 3, 2013
An aide for Clinton released the following statement, "Secretary Clinton supports the president’s effort to enlist the Congress in pursuing a strong and targeted response to the Assad regime’s horrific use of chemical weapons."[15][5]


December 3, 2012
"I am not going to telegraph any specifics what we do in the event of credible evidence that the Assad regime has resorted to using chemical weapons against their own people, but suffice to say we are certainly planning to take action if that eventuality were to occur."[7][5]


March 29, 2011
"We're also going to continue to urge that the promise of reform, which has been made over and over again and which you reported on just a few months ago – I'm a reformer, I'm going to reform, and I've talked to members of Congress and others about that, that we hear from the highest levels of leadership in Syria – will actually be turned into reality."[16][5]
March 27, 2011
"There's a different leader in Syria now. Many of the members of Congress of both parties who have gone to Syria in recent months have said they believe he's a reformer."[16][5]

Leon Panetta


September 28, 2012
"We've never had perfect visibility into the Syrian chemical weapons stockpile, but we have excellent information that accounts for most of it. We've seen it move, and we've been able to make an assessment as to why it's been moved. This is a highly distributed network of chemical weapons sites, and we have a good grasp of what's going on inside that network."[17][5]

Susan Rice

See also: Susan Rice


September 3, 2013
"We have no expectation of losing the vote in Congress."[18][5]
"We think that the Congress of the United States and the American people understand that we have compelling national interests at stake here."[18][5]
"All of this is horrific. All of us as human beings feel terrible when we see the extraordinary loss of life that [has] occurred in Syria. With chemical weapons, they can kill with indiscriminate abandon. People who are innocent are employed in conflict. It is of a greater magnitude because if terrorists get ahold of those weapons, if other dictators get ahold of those weapons, they can be used on a massive scale."[18][5]


October 4, 2011
On Russia and China vetoing a U.N. resolution containing Syrian sanctions: "We had countries all over the world supporting this resolution today, and we have countries throughout the region who’ve been very clear that the brutality of the Assad regime has to end and that the behavior of the regime is absolutely intolerable."[19][5]

Public opinion

  • September 9, 2013: According to a CNN/ORC International poll, 8 in 10 Americans believe Assad used chemical weapons on his own people. However, 7 in 10 say that strikes against Syria would not achieve significant goals for the U.S. and are not in our best interest.[20]
  • September 9, 2013: According to a Gallup poll, the most popular reason (43% of respondents) for opposing strikes in Syria is that it does not concern the U.S./we do not need to start another war.[21]

See also

External links

The White House U.S. Department of State U.S. Department of Defense


  1. 1.0 1.1 CNN, "Daraa: The spark that lit the Syrian flame," March 1, 2012
  2. BBC, "Syria profile," accessed September 4, 2013
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 Miami Herald, "Timeline of key events in Syrian uprising," September 4, 2013
  4. 4.0 4.1 The White House, "Statement by the President on Syria," August 31, 2013
  5. 5.00 5.01 5.02 5.03 5.04 5.05 5.06 5.07 5.08 5.09 5.10 5.11 5.12 5.13 5.14 5.15 5.16 5.17 5.18 5.19 5.20 5.21 5.22 Note: This text is quoted verbatim from the original source. Any inconsistencies are attributed to the original source.
  6. Fox News, "Obama walks back 'red line' stance on Syrian government using chemical weapons," April 30, 2013
  7. 7.0 7.1 The Guardian, "Barack Obama warns Syria of chemical weapons 'consequences'," December 3, 2012
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 President Obama: "The future of Syria must be determined by its people, but President Bashar al-Assad is standing in their way," August 18, 2011
  9. The Guardian, "John Kerry gives Syria week to hand over chemical weapons or face attack," September 9, 2013
  10. 10.0 10.1 The Guardian, "John Kerry statement on US intervention in Syria – full text," August 30, 2013
  11. Washington Post, "John Kerry’s message to Syria," March 29, 2011
  12. Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, "Senator John Kerry on the U.S. Policy Toward the Middle East," March 16, 2011 (Note: Page 16)
  13. Department of Defense, "Hagel Urges Congress to Support Military Action Against Syria," September 3, 2013
  14. 14.0 14.1 New York Times, "Chuck Hagel’s Statement on Syria," April 25, 2013
  15. Politico, "Hillary Clinton backs President Obama on Syria," September 3, 2013
  16. 16.0 16.1 Washington Post, "Hillary Clinton’s uncredible statement on Syria," April 4, 2011
  17. Foreign Policy, "Panetta: We've Lost Track of Some Syrian Chemical Weapons," September 28, 2012
  18. 18.0 18.1 18.2 Huffington Post, "Susan Rice On Syria: White House is 'Quite Confident' Congress Will Support A Strike," September 3, 2013
  19. New York Times, "U.N. Resolution on Syria Blocked by Russia and China," October 4, 2011
  20. CNN, "CNN poll: Public against Syria strike resolution", accessed September 9, 2013
  21. Gallup, "In U.S., Opponents Say Action in Syria Not America's Concern", accessed September 9, 2013