President Obama told CNN that he was getting close to deciding what to do about Syria and Egypt.
The time is nearing for a potentially definitive U.S. response to alleged Syrian government atrocities and an increasingly violent military crackdown in Egypt, President Barack Obama said in an exclusive interview broadcast Friday on CNN's "New Day."
The U.S. remains "one indispensable nation" in the volatile Middle East and elsewhere, Obama told "New Day" anchor Chris Cuomo.
"We have to think through strategically what's going to be in our long term national interests."
Asked by Cuomo whether the U.S. government is now facing a "more abbreviated time frame" on key decisions in Egypt and Syria, Obama repeatedly gave a one-word response: yes.
The president sat down with Cuomo on Thursday evening -- after having delivered a speech in Syracuse, New York -- to discuss a wide range of critical domestic and international issues. These included upheavals abroad, soaring college tuition at home, a possible government shutdown this fall, and politically sensitive revelations of illegal surveillance by the National Security Agency.
Asked about claims by anti-regime activists in Syria that Bashar al-Assad's government used chemical weapons in an attack that was said to have killed more than 1,300 people, Obama responded that officials are "right now gathering information" and that "what we've seen indicates that this is clearly a big event of grave concern."
"It is very troublesome," the president stressed.
Obama said U.S. officials are pushing "to prompt better action" from the United Nations, and are calling on the Syrian government to allow an investigation of the site of the alleged attack outside Damascus.
"We don't expect cooperation (from the Syrian government), given their past history," Obama conceded.
He quickly followed up with a warning, however, that "core national interests" of the U.S. are now involved in Syria's civil war, "both in terms of us making sure that weapons of mass destruction are not proliferating, as well as needing to protect our allies, our bases in the region."
Are we still the "one indispensable nation" in the Middle East? Perhaps we could answer that by asking if any governments in the region are paying any attention to what we do and say. Syria's Assad is laughing at our "red line" threat. Egypt's al-Sisi is livid with our support for the Muslim Brotherhood (as are most Egyptians). Turkey goes its own way by supplying the rebels in Syria with arms while criticizing the US for its MB support. Putin is gleefully moving into the leadership vacuum left by Obama's "lead from behind" strategy.
In short, precious few nations in the region could care less what Obama says because they know he won't "do" anything. Before the violent crackdown on the Brotherhood, al-Sisi apparently listened politely to John Kerry's lecturing - and then went out and slaughtered a thousand people. I would say that's a good indication that the US has lost whetever influence it had in the region and will be a long time getting it back.