State's Marie Harf: "We Go To Great Lengths To Vet Anyone We Give Assistance To"


CHRIS HAYES: I first met you face to face a year ago. I came down to Washington to interview John Kerry, and it was about a push from the State Department to the White House for possible military strikes against Bashar al Assad. Here we are one year later and it looks like the groundwork is being laid for possible air strikes against a group that is fighting Bashar al Assad. How are American people supposed to make sense of this?

MARIE HARF, STATE DEPT. DEPUTY SPOKESPERSON: Well, I remember that day well, Chris, and I'd make a few points on that. The first is that we will not be working with the Assad regime or coordinating with them to fight ISIS. They are not the answer to ISIS. They are the reason that ISIS has been able to grow in strength. They've been able to flourish. They've allowed them to move freely back and forth to Iraq. So on the one hand, while they may be fighting ISIS in places, on the other hand, they have allowed them to grow, so we're very focused right now on how we, working with other partners, whether it's the Syrian moderate opposition as you just mentioned, the Iraqis, the Kurds, working with those partners to take the fight to ISIS. We're not going to be working with the Assad regime.

CHRIS HAYES: At a certain level, the enemy of my enemy -- if in fact you bomb ISIS, do you that then, ergo, strengthen Assad?

HARF: Well, unfortunately nothing in Syria is as simplistic as that. From your reporting you just did, I think that's very clear. We have been clear we will take the fight to ISIS and do whatever we can regardless of geographical boundaries to protect Americans. We've been clear Assad lost all legitimacy to lead. You look, 190,000 people dead. That's why we've increased our support to the moderate opposition because they're fighting a war basically on three fronts. Against the regime, against ISIS, and against Nusra.


CHRIS HAYES: There was a period where we were talking about the "vetted opposition." You just mentioned the Free Syrian Army. How can you give any assurances at this point of anyone being vetted in the maelstrom of chaos and violence that is Syria?

HARF: Well, we go to great lengths to vet people we give any assistance to. Particularly when we're talking about this new Department of Defense program that we asked Congress to authorize, to train and equip the Syrian opposition, we go to great lengths to vet them. For exactly the reason you mentioned we don't want our assistance falling into the wrong hands.

CHRIS HAYES: If an American kid who liked to play basketball and hip hop can end up fighting for ISIS, one imagines a Free Syrian Army fighter with an American weapon can someday decide he also wants to join ISIS and there's not exactly going to be a process in which he hands over his weapon.

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