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Thursday 21 September 2017

Clinton rebukes Obama for staying out of Syrian conflict

U.S. President Barack Obama
U.S. President Barack Obama

Peter Foster Washington

FORMER US president Bill Clinton has urged greater US intervention in Syria, warning that President Barack Obama was making a "big mistake" by staying out of the conflict that has now cost at least 93,000 lives.

Mr Clinton, who intervened in Kosovo and Bosnia, having failed to stop the Rwandan genocide, said Mr Obama should back rebel fighters just as Ronald Reagan had backed the Mujahideen against the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.

"Some people say, 'okay, see what a big mess it is? Stay out!' I think that's a big mistake," Mr Clinton said at a private event in New York with the Republican Senator John McCain, who has repeatedly called for the US to intervene, including by enforcing a no-fly zone.

"Nobody is asking for American soldiers in Syria," Mr Clinton said, according to a recording heard by 'Politico' magazine.

"The only question is, now that the Russians, the Iranians and Hizbollah are in there head over heels, 90 miles to nothing, should we try to do something to try to slow their gains and rebalance the power?"

Mr Clinton suggested that Mr Obama was making the mistake of being led by opinion polls that show scant US public support for greater involvement in the conflict, rather than showing leadership.

His remarks come amid rising speculation that the US is preparing to step up aid to rebel fighters, who are now losing ground to the forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad.

After capturing the strategic town of Qusayr from rebels, regime forces are now pushing to take control of the central provinces of Homs and Hama.

So far, the White House has blocked moves to provide military support to the rebels, confining itself to providing food and medicines, fearing that weapons could fall into the hands of Islamist rebel groups with links to al-Qa'ida.

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However, it is understood from a person who has "seen the paperwork" in Washington that plans are in place to step up US non-lethal military supplies, including communications equipment, satellite phones and logistical support. It remains far from clear whether the US and the EU – the latter lifted the arms embargo to Syria but remains sharply divided on the issue – would shift towards more lethal support if the conflict turned sharply against the rebels.

Syria will be the lead topic on the sidelines of next week's G8 meeting in Co Fermanagh and is expected to be the main subject of conversation at a dinner on Monday, which will be attended by all the leaders.

Meanwhile, the Syrian conflict continues to claim lives at the rate of about 5,000 people a month, according to new data released by the United Nations. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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