NPR logo NPR News Interview: President Barack Obama

NPR News Interview: President Barack Obama

ON SYRIA, OBAMA TELLS NPR: "... IN MANY WAYS CONDITIONS ARE WORSE."

Interview Airing Tomorrow, May 29 on 'Morning Edition'; Preview Now During 'All Things Considered' and Online at the Two-Way Blog

Media Note: Full Transcript and Audio to be Released May 29

May 28, 2014; Washington, D.C. – In an interview with NPR News at the United States Military Academy at West Point, President Barack Obama told Morning Edition's Steve Inskeep he believes the situation in Syria has deteriorated, but that there's an opportunity now to increase support for the Syrian opposition. "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, think about who this opposition is. The moderate opposition, as opposed to the jihadists that have seen the chaos there as an opportunity to gain a foothold – those are hardened fighters. When you talk about the moderate opposition, many of these people 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 that takes unfortunately more time than I think many people would like."

Host Steve Inskeep spoke with the president this afternoon after Obama delivered the commencement speech at West Point. The conversation airs tomorrow, May 29 at 5AM (ET) on Morning Edition. Excerpts are airing now on All Things Considered and also available at the NPR News blog, The Two-Way.

The president pointed to the situation in Ukraine as an example of his vision of American leadership having an impact: "I just spoke yesterday to the newly-elected president of Ukraine. Mr. Putin has just announced that he is moving his troops back from the borders of Ukraine. And that's an application of American leadership that is sustainable, consistent and is most likely to produce the kinds of results we want."

When asked about Russia's annexation of Crimea Obama stated: "The fact that Crimea, which historically is dominated by native Russians and Russian speakers was annexed illegally does not in any way negate the fact that the way of life, the systems of economic organization, the notions of rule of law – those values that we hold dear are ascendant."

Inskeep asked the president about his ongoing efforts to close the detention center at Guantanamo, and whether he will be able to do so before he leaves office. Obama said: "I want to make sure that when I turn the keys over to the next president, that they have the ability, that he or she has the capacity to make some decisions with a relatively clean slate. Closing Guantanamo is one."

MEDIA – PLEASE NOTE: The full audio and a complete transcript of the interview will be made available tomorrow, May 29 at NPR.org.

All excerpts from the interview must be credited to "NPR News." Broadcast outlets may use up to sixty (60) consecutive seconds of audio from the interview. Television usage must include on-screen chyron to "NPR News" with NPR logo.

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