President Barack Obama did not take kindly to lawmakers from both parties saying the United States might not be facing the problems it is with ISIS had he armed the Syrian rebels years ago, calling the suggestion "horses--t," reports The Daily Beast.
Obama invited about a dozen House and Senate leaders from both parties to the White House to discuss foreign policy just before they left for their August recess. The Beast reports that two members of that group say Obama became angry at bipartisan criticism of his failure to arm moderate Syrian rebels, who have been requesting aid for years.
One of the lawmakers told the Beast that Tennessee Republican Sen. Bob Corker asked Obama a long question about his foreign policy, criticizing him on Ukraine, Russia, ISIS and Syria, among others.
That prompted Obama to defend his actions on Syria, saying that any suggestion that arming the rebels would have prevented the rise of ISIS there and in Iraq was "horses--t."
Neither the White House nor Corker's office confirmed the use of the expletive, the Beast reported, though the White House did say the exchange occurred between the two men.
New York Democratic Rep. Elliot Engel arrived at the meeting after Obama's comment, but told the Beast that he did hear Obama defend his policy in Syria in less explicit words.
"The president still feels very strongly that we are deluding ourselves if we think American intervention in Syria early on by assisting these rebels would have made a difference," Engel told the Beast. "He still believes that. I disagree, respectfully. They were not looking for U.S. troops, they were looking for help, and the Syria civil war started with the most noblest of causes."
Some high-level members of Obama's own security team also argued for arming the rebels over the years, including former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Clinton said in an interview with The Atlantic
published over the weekend that Obama's refusal to "build up a credible fighting force" in Syria to fight the Bashar Assad regime was a "failure" that led to the rise of ISIS in Iraq.
Clinton and then-CIA Director David Petraeus in 2012 pushed a plan to arm the Syrian rebels, but Obama rejected it. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey also supported the plan.
The terror group ISIS was fighting Assad, as were the moderate rebels. Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham and John McCain repeatedly urged arming the moderates.
ISIS, now calling itself the Islamic State, moved across the Syrian-Iraqi border and now controls large areas of northern Iraq and is killing civilians who don't subscribe to Shiite Islam.
Before leaving for a Martha's Vineyard vacation on Friday, Obama ordered humanitarian aid for trapped refugees and targeted airstrikes to protect Americans advising Iraqi forces.
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