Obama admits the US has been muscled out of Syria

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On Monday, President Obama admitted that the US has essentially been muscled out of Syria by being relegated to a diplomatic role in the country.

"With respect to Syria — in Benghazi, we had an international mandate. We had a UN Security resolution. We had a broad-based coalition, and we were able to carry out a support mission that achieved the initial goal of preventing Benghazi from being slaughtered fairly quickly," Obama said on Monday, comparing the situation in Syria to the 2011 intervention against Libya's Colonel Muammar Gaddafi.

In March of 2011, US Air Force B-1 bombers took off from South Dakota, flew halfway around the world, and slammed Libya's air defenses. US Navy ships in the Mediterranean pounded targets with cruise missiles. Seven months later, Gaddafi was dead, and the intervention complete.

See images of the destruction in Syria:

24 PHOTOS
NTP: Syria's truce in tatters due to recent fighting
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NTP: Syria's truce in tatters due to recent fighting
A man inspects damaged shops after an airstrike on a market in the town of Maarat al-Numan in the insurgent stronghold of Idlib province, Syria April 19, 2016. REUTERS/Ammar Abdullah TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
A view shows a trench in the rebel-controlled area of Bala town in Eastern Ghouta, Syria April 13, 2016. Picture taken April 13, 2016. REUTERS/Bassam Khabieh
A man smokes a cigarette inside his damaged home during his visit to the city of Palmyra, Syria April 9, 2016. REUTERS/Omar Sanadiki
Harakat Nour al-Din al-Zenki fighters look out inside a damaged building in Handarat area, north of Aleppo Syria April 19, 2016. REUTERS/Abdalrhman Ismail
Civil defence members look for survivors after an airstrike on the rebel-held Old Aleppo, Syria April 16, 2016. REUTERS/Abdalrhman Ismail
Men are seen covered with flour after unloading flour from a Red Crescent and United Nations aid convoy in the rebel held besieged town of Hamoria area, in the eastern suburbs of Damascus, Syria April 19, 2016. REUTERS/Bassam Khabieh
Men tend to an injured cow after an airstrike in the rebel-held town of Turmanin, in Idlib Governorate near the Syrian-Turkish border, Syria April 6, 2016. REUTERS/Ammar Abdullah
Residents look for survivors amidst the rubble after an airstrike on the rebel-held Old Aleppo, Syria April 16, 2016. REUTERS/Abdalrhman Ismail
Harakat Nour al-Din al-Zenki fighters rest inside a safe house in Handarat area, north of Aleppo, Syria, April 19, 2016. REUTERS/Abdalrhman Ismail
A man is seen covered with flour after unloading flour from a Red Crescent and United Nations aid convoy in the rebel held besieged town of Hamoria area, in the eastern suburbs of Damascus, Syria, April 19, 2016. REUTERS/Bassam Khabieh
Produce lies amidst damaged shops after an airstrike on a market in the town of Maarat al-Numan in the insurgent stronghold of Idlib province, Syria April 19, 2016. REUTERS/Ammar Abdullah
Residents look for survivors after an airstrike on the rebel-held Old Aleppo, Syria April 16, 2016. REUTERS/Abdalrhman Ismail
Women react to damage as they visit the city of Palmyra, Syria April 9, 2016. REUTERS/Omar Sanadiki
Men unloading aid boxes from a Red Crescent and United Nations(UN)aid convoy in the rebel held besieged town of Hamoria area, in the eastern suburbs of Damascus, Syria April 19, 2016. REUTERS/Bassam Khabieh
A Red Crescent and United Nations aid convoy arrives in the rebel held besieged town of Hamoria area, in the eastern suburbs of Damascus, Syria, April 19, 2016. REUTERS/Bassam Khabieh
Children play table football in Aleppo's Bustan al-Qasr neighborhood, Syria April 6, 2016. REUTERS/Abdalrhman Ismail
A picture is hung on a wall inside a damaged house in the rebel-controlled area of Jobar, a suburb of Damascus, Syria April 11, 2016. Picture taken April 11, 2016. REUTERS/Bassam Khabieh
Residents carry belongings they collected from their damaged homes as they walk during a return visit to the city of Palmyra, Syria April 9, 2016. REUTERS/Omar Sanadiki TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
A rebel fighter, in charge of policing the area and operating under a coalition of rebel groups called "Jaish al Fateh", also known as "Army of Fatah" (Conquest Army), prepares a controlled detonation of an explosive device found on the edge of a road linking Idlib to Armanaz area, Syria April 14, 2016. The sign reads: "Glory to God". REUTERS/Ammar Abdullah
A man rides on a motorbike as another one walks past damaged buildings in the rebel-controlled area of al-Nashabyia town in Eastern Ghouta, Syria April 13, 2016. Picture taken April 13, 2016. REUTERS/Bassam Khabieh
Men unload flour from a Red Crescent and United Nations aid convoy in the rebel held besieged town of Hamoria area, in the eastern suburbs of Damascus, Syria April 19, 2016. REUTERS/Bassam Khabieh
Smoke rises after an airstrike on the rebel-held town of Turmanin, in Idlib Governorate near the Syrian-Turkish border, Syria April 6, 2016. REUTERS/Ammar Abdullah
A man walks near damaged shops after an airstrike on a market in the town of Maarat al-Numan in the insurgent stronghold of Idlib province, Syria April 19, 2016. REUTERS/Ammar Abdullah TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
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The conflict exemplified the US's ability to crush foes militarily and through coalition-building.

But Obama acknowledged on Monday that the US military no longer has that capability in Syria. "Syria is a much more messy situation, with proxies coming from every direction," said Obama, referencing Iran and Russia, who have inserted themselves into the conflict on behalf of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

In some ways, politics prohibit Obama from striking Assad like he struck Gaddafi. Obama has proven "phobic" of confronting Iran, a key backer of the Assad regime, due to pursuit of a nuclear deal with Iran.

Another reason Obama can't strike Assad like he did Gaddafi is strategic. Russia has installed advanced missile defense and anti-aircraft batteries in Syria. These present significant threats to the US military, and greatly complicate the US's options.

Meanwhile, Assad, with Russia's help, continues to pound rebel targets in Syria, even targeting civilian infrastructure like hospitals and schools. The international community has repeatedly accused Assad and Russia of war crimes at least on par with the abuses that spurred the US to strike Gaddafi.

"I wish that I could bring this to a halt immediately," said Obama of the suffering in Syria.

"We have made every effort to try to bring about a political resolution to this challenge. John Kerry has spent an infinite amount of time trying to negotiate with Russians and Iranians and Gulf States and other parties to try to end the killing there."

RELATED: See images of the White Helmets in Syria

19 PHOTOS
White Helmets of Syria
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White Helmets of Syria
Civil defence members carry a casualty after an airstrike at a field hospital in the rebel held area of al-Sukari district of Aleppo, Syria April 27, 2016. REUTERS/Abdalrhman Ismail
Civil defense members search for survivors under the rubble at a site hit by airstrikes in the rebel-controlled town of Ariha in Idlib province, Syria July 13, 2016. REUTERS/Ammar Abdullah
Civil defence members rescue a girl from under the rubble after airstrikes by pro-Syrian government forces in the rebel held al-Qaterji neighbourhood of Aleppo, Syria February 14, 2016. REUTERS/Abdalrhman Ismail 
Members of the Civil Defence rescue children after what activists said was an air strike by forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad in al-Shaar neighbourhood of Aleppo June 2, 2014. REUTERS/Sultan Kitaz 
Civil Defence members with blood on their shirts stand after double airstrikes on the rebel held Bab al-Nairab neighborhood of Aleppo, Syria, August 27, 2016. REUTERS/Abdalrhman Ismail
Omar Alwan, 21, a civil defence member, poses for a photograph in Idlib, Syria March 8, 2016. "Before the truce I wouldn't go out from the civil defence building because of my constant fear of the war planes. The first two days of the truce I had the same fear, but it began declining. I am expecting that the peace talks are serious this time," said Omar. "The war will not end in Syria until Bashar Al-Assad leaves." As peace talks are set to get under way in Geneva next week, residents in Syria from nurses to street vendors voice little optimism over the United Nations-backed negotiations' chance of success. The Geneva talks will coincide with the fifth anniversary of a conflict that began with protests against President Bashar al-Assad before descending into a multi-sided war that has drawn in foreign governments and allowed the growth of Islamic State. REUTERS/Khalil Ashawi 
A Civil defence member looks for survivors at a site hit by what activists said were two barrel bombs dropped by forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad in the Al-Shaar neighbourhood of Aleppo July 27, 2014. REUTERS/Hamid Khatib 
Civil defense members mourn the death of their comrade, who died during what activists said were airstrikes carried out by the Russian air force, during his funeral in Ehsim town in the south of Idlib province, Syria, October 3, 2015. REUTERS/Khalil Ashawi
Civil defence members hold a demonstration to children during a war safety awareness class in Deraa Governorate, Syria March 5, 2016. REUTERS/Alaa Al-Faqir
A Civil Defence member reacts in a damaged site near the frame of a burnt vehicle after an airstrike on al-Jalaa street in the rebel held city of Idlib, Syria August 10, 2016. REUTERS/Ammar Abdullah
Residents and civil defense members look for survivors at a damaged site after what activists said was a barrel bomb dropped by forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad in the Al-Shaar nighbourhood of Aleppo, Syria September 17, 2015. REUTERS/Abdalrhman Ismail
Civil defence members search for survivors after an airstrike at a field hospital in the rebel held area of al-Sukari district of Aleppo, Syria April 27, 2016. REUTERS/Abdalrhman Ismail
Smoke rises over a damaged site as Civil Defence members try to put out a fire after an airstrike on al-Jalaa street in the rebel held city of Idlib, Syria August 10, 2016. REUTERS/Ammar Abdullah
Civil defence members rest amid rubble of damaged buildings after an airstrike on the rebel-held Tariq al-Bab neighbourhood of Aleppo, Syria April 23, 2016. REUTERS/Abdalrhman Ismail Y
 A civil defence member carries a dead child in a site hit by what activists said were airstrikes carried out by the Russian air force in the rebel-controlled area of Maaret al-Numan town in Idlib province, Syria January 9, 2016. At least 70 people died in what activists said where four vacuum bombs dropped by the Russian air force in the town of Maaret al-Numan; other air strikes where also carried out in the towns of Saraqib, Khan Sheikhoun and Maar Dabseh, in Idlib. REUTERS/Khalil Ashawi 
Civilians, with the help of Civil Defence members, position sanitation pipes as barricades to provide protection from snipers loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad who are stationed in Aleppo's historic citadel October 12, 2014. REUTERS/Abdalrhman Ismail 
A civil defence member carries an injured girl at a site hit by airstrikes in the rebel-controlled area of Maaret al-Numan town in Idlib province, Syria June 2, 2016. REUTERS/Khalil Ashawi 
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And here is Obama's admission, verbatim, that the US has run out of leverage in Syria: "But if what you're asking is do we have the capacity to carry out the same kinds of military actions in Syria that we did in Libya, the situation is obviously different.

"We don't have that option easily available to us."

But military solutions represent only a small portion of the US's options. The White House has attempted diplomatic solutions, lately between the US and Russia, time and time again.

"I recognize that that has not worked," Obama said of the diplomatic efforts so far. "And it is something that I continue to think about every day, and we continue to try to find some formula that would allow us to see that suffering end."

Indeed the US's lack of credible military leverage must complicate the "formula" to get Russia, Syria, and Iran, to act against their interests.

"You have a Syrian military that is committed to killing its people indiscriminately, as necessary, and it is supported by Russia that now have substantial military assets on the ground and are actively supporting that regime, and Iran actively supporting that regime," said Obama.

But he made it clear that his priority didn't lie with protecting the rebels or civilians under fire from a ruthless regime, as it did in Libya with Gaddafi, but rather fighting ISIS, the international terror group. "The situation is not the same as it was in Libya," said Obama, regarding the presence of ISIS in Syria.

The Obama policy towards Syria has been inconsistent with other interventions in the US's past. The suffering of the Syrian people and the brutality of the Assad regime, with even Assad's crossing of Obama's "red line" by using chemical weapons, didn't spur the US into action.

Earlier in the Syrian conflict, the US could have overthrown Assad much as it did Gaddafi, but that window has closed.

And now Obama has admitted that.

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