President Obama forcefully denounced Russia on Friday for its new bombing campaign in Syria and said the United States would not cooperate, declaring that Moscow’s actions will lead it into a “quagmire” and make the crisis in the Middle East worse not better.
Even as the Kremlin widened its bombings in Syria, striking Islamic State territory for the first time, Mr. Obama said that Russia’s military intervention “won’t work” and that it would drive legitimate opposition groups underground and provide a recruiting tool for Islamic radicals.
In his first comments since Russia began bombing targets in Syria that include opposition forces supported by the United States, Mr. Obama repeated his demand that any resolution of the four-year-old civil war must include the departure of Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian president and a longtime Moscow ally.
“We’re very clear in sticking to our belief in our policy that the problem here is Assad and the brutality he’s inflicted on the Syrian people and that it has to stop,” Mr. Obama said. While the United States will work with “all parties” to broker a transition, “we are not going to cooperate with a Russian campaign to simply try to destroy anybody who is disgusted and fed up with Mr. Assad’s behavior.”
Speaking to reporters at the White House, Mr. Obama also bristled at domestic criticism that he has failed to articulate a workable strategy for pushing out Mr. Assad and defeating the Islamic State, also called ISIS and ISIL.
“When I hear people offering up half-baked ideas as if they are solutions or trying to downplay the challenges involved in this situation, what I’d like to see people ask is specifically, precisely, what exactly would you do and how would you fund it and how would you sustain it?” he said. “Typically what you get is a bunch of mumbo-jumbo.”
In response to a reporter’s question, he strained to explain that he did not include in that category of “mumbo-jumbo” the comments of his former secretary of state, Hillary Rodham Clinton, who just Thursday backed a no-fly zone in Syria, a policy Mr. Obama has repeatedly rejected. But he suggested she was just campaigning, not offering a serious governing proposal.