Hillary Clinton notes distance from Obama on Syria rebels

Reuters
Clinton answers a question as she discusses her new book at George Washington University in Washington
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Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton answers a question as she discusses her new book "Hard …

By Gabriel Debenedetti

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Potential Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton pointed out her differences with President Barack Obama on Tuesday over his decision not to arm moderate Syrian rebels, as neighboring Iraq struggles to cope with extremist spillover from Syria.

"We pushed very hard. But as I say in my book, I believe that Harry Truman was right, the buck stops with the president,"

Clinton said in a CNN interview.

The former secretary of state said she, along with the then heads of the Pentagon and Central Intelligence Agency tried but failed to persuade Obama to arm the rebels fighting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, but that the White House resisted.

Clinton said it is not clear whether arming moderates in Syria would have prevented the rise of al Qaeda splinter group the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, which has swept toward Baghdad aiming to build a Muslim caliphate across the Iraqi-Syrian border.

"It's very difficult, in retrospect, to say that would have prevented this," she said. She said it is too soon to tell whether American policy in Syria was a failure.

The former secretary of state, senator and first lady has been offering views that differ from Obama's on foreign policy in recent months, including on issues such as Iran's nuclear program and dealings with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Clinton, who ran for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008, has said she will not decide before November's congressional elections whether to run for president in 2016, but is regarded by many as the Democratic front-runner. Her CNN interview was organized as part of a tour to promote her newly released book, "Hard Choices."

(Editing by Jonathan Oatis)

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