Hillary Clinton now says she was a strong advocate of arming the Syrian rebels when she was secretary of state, but in a February 2012 interview, she passionately pushed back against the viability of such an opposition — even raising the specter that such a policy might be akin to supporting al-Qaida.
“What are we going to arm them with and against what?” she said, when pressed in a CBS interview about why the Obama administration wasn’t giving the Syrian rebels weapons to help them in their fight against Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad. “You are not going to bring tanks over the borders of Turkey, Lebanaon and Jordan — that’s not going to happen. So maybe at the best you can smuggle in, you know, automatic weapons.”
“And to whom are you delivering them?” she continued. “We know that al-Qaida [leader Ayman al] Zawahiri is supporting the opposition in Syria. Are we supporting al-Qaida in Syria? Hamas is now supporting the opposition. Are we supporting Hamas in Syria?”
“Despite the great pleas that we hear from those people who are being ruthlessly assaulted by Assad, if you are a military planner or if you are a secretary of state and you are trying to figure out do you have the elements of an opposition that is actually viable, we don’t see that,” she concluded. (RELATED: Why Hillary Clinton Can’t Escape The Obama Admin’s Lousy Foreign Policy Record)
In her memoir about her time as secretary of state, Clinton claimed that she was a strong advocate for arming the Syrian opposition within the Obama administration, but the president ultimately opposed the policy. In a recent interview with The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg, Clinton said the Obama administration’s failure to provide significant military aid to the Syrian opposition has had profound consequences.
“The failure to help build up a credible fighting force of the people who were the originators of the protests against Assad—there were Islamists, there were secularists, there was everything in the middle—the failure to do that left a big vacuum, which the jihadists have now filled,” Clinton said.
While it could be argued that Clinton was merely conveying the administration’s position in the 2012 CBS interview, the vehemence with which she expressed opposition to arming the Syrian rebels makes that case harder to believe.