By Jordan Fabian - 03/10/16 08:47 AM EST
Obama denied Kerry requests for Syrian missile strikes
President Obama has repeatedly ruled out requests by Secretary of State John KerryJohn Kerry5 reasons Trump's final debate performance sealed his 2016 coffin US pledges to do all it can to fight 'grave threat' of nuclear North Korea Armani, Batali among guests at White House state dinner MORE to launch missiles at regime targets in Syria, according to a report published Thursday.
Over the past year, Kerry has argued the strikes are not intended to overthrow President Bashar Assad but instead would “send a message” with the goal of bringing him to the negotiating table to broker a peace deal, according to The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg.
But Obama was not convinced and has grown frustrated with the requests.
“Oh, another proposal?” Obama said when Kerry recently dropped off a new outline of ways to pressure Assad.
The president’s reluctance to get more involved in Syria has frustrated members of his administration and lawmakers in both parties, who have argued for a more aggressive response to defeat Assad, whom Obama said must leave power.
Still, Obama has indicated he will stick with his cautious approach, even though Russia has launched a bombing campaign to prop up the Syrian regime against rebel forces.
“They are overextended. They’re bleeding,” Obama told Goldberg, referring to the Russians. “And their economy has contracted for three years in a row, drastically.”
The comments come at a time when a fragile cessation of hostilities is in place between Syria, Russia and rebel forces. The temporary lapse in fighting is intended to pave the way for a broader peace deal, but so far Kerry and his negotiating partners have struggled to reach an agreement.
The incident also illustrates how Obama has pushed away members of his administration who disagree with his approach.
“Kerry’s looking like a chump with the Russians, because he has no leverage,” a senior administration official told Goldberg.
Vice President Biden has also become frustrated with Kerry — at one point telling the secretary of State, “John, remember Vietnam? Remember how that started?”
At a December National Security Council meeting, Obama said no one except for the secretary of Defense should hand him proposals for military action, a comment perceived to be aimed at Kerry.
Samantha PowerSamantha PowerFormer Portuguese leader, refugee chief primed to be new UN head Dem urges support for UN human rights resolution on Yemen Obama’s November surprise MORE, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, has frequently lobbied the president to adopt her point of view, laid out in her 2002 book, which is that America should intervene overseas when a country massacres its own citizens.
Power has sometimes argued with Obama in front of his National Security Council. In one instance, Obama shot, “Samantha, enough, I’ve already read your book.”