Obama Calls For Further Support Of Syrian Rebels: What's Changed?

Steve Inskeep of NPR's Morning Edition spoke with President Obama shortly after the president's speech to West Point graduates. He offers a brief preview of that conversation.

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MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

Our colleague Steve Inskeep interviewed President Obama after the West Point speech. Among the topics - Syria and the president's call for further support of the rebels. That's something the president has considered in the past and decided against. Steve asked what's changed?

STEVE INSKEEP, BYLINE: Are conditions better now then for a more robust aiding of the rebels and training of the rebels than in the past?

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Well, I wouldn't say the conditions are better. I think in many ways, the conditions are worse. But the capacity of some of the opposition is better than it was before, which is understandable. Think about who this opposition is - the moderate opposition, as opposed to the jihadists that have seen the caste there as an opportunity to gain a foothold. Those are hardened fighters. When you talk about the moderate opposition, many of these were farmers or dentists or maybe some radio reporters, who didn't have a lot of experience fighting. What they understood was is that they had a government that was killing its own people and violating human rights in the most profound way. And they wanted to do something about it. But creating a capacity for them to hold ground, to be able to rebuff vicious attacks, for them to be able to also organize themselves in ways that are cohesive, all of that takes, unfortunately, more time than I think many people would like.

BLOCK: President Obama speaking with Steve Inskeep. The full interview airs tomorrow on Morning Edition.

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