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President Obama on Syria and ISIL's Future


President Barack Obama, center, followed by Secretary of State John Kerry, left, and Defense Secretary Ash Carter right, walks to a podium to speak to media after a meeting of his National Security Council (NSC) at the State Department in Washington, Feb.

President Barack Obama said the only way to defeat ISIL in a way that lasts is to end the chaos and the civil war that has engulfed Syria for the last five years.

After a recent meeting with his National Security Council team, President Barack Obama said the only way to defeat ISIL in a way that lasts is to end the chaos and the civil war that has engulfed Syria for the last five years.

The cessation of hostilities that was agreed to by Russia, the United States and other members of the International Syria Support Group on February 22, and which went into effect February 27, is a test, Mr. Obama said, of whether the parties involved are truly committed to negotiations: “The process agreed to in Vienna is clear – a transition toward a more inclusive representative government, a new government, a new constitution, followed by free elections.”

Acknowledging differences with Russia and Iran on the issue, President Obama reiterated his conviction that Syria’s new future cannot include Bashar al Assad:

“It’s clear that after years of his barbaric war against his own people – including torture, and barrel bombs, and sieges and starvation – many Syrians will never stop fighting until Assad is out of power. There’s no alternative to a managed transition away from Assad. It’s the only way to end the civil war and unite the Syrian people against terrorists.”

President Obama said that a political settlement that would end the civil war means that all parties could then turn their attention to the crucial task of destroying ISIL:

“And that’s why the United States will do everything we can to maximize the chance of success in this cessation of hostilities. At the same time, I want to make totally clear that there will be absolutely no cease-fire with respect to ISIL. We remain relentless in going after them.”

President Obama noted that the U.S.-led coalition with its local partners and allies is making headway in shrinking the core of ISIL in Syria and in Iraq. ISIL’s control of territory has been diminished; its leaders have been killed; its flow of foreign fighters has been slowed; its finances have been disrupted.

“The fight against ISIL will remain difficult,” said President Obama. “But we will continue to draw on all elements of our national power -- military, intelligence, diplomacy, homeland security, law enforcement and the strength of our communities. And I am confident that we will prevail.”

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