'This Week' Transcript: President Barack Obama

President Barack Obama is interviewed on 'This Week'

ByABC News
September 13, 2013, 5:17 PM
In this handout image provided by Host Photo Agency, U.S. President Barack Obama attends the second working meeting of the G20 heads of state and government.
In this handout image provided by Host Photo Agency, U.S. President Barack Obama attends the second working meeting of the G20 heads of state and government.
Alexander Vilf/Host Photo Agency via Getty Images

WASHINGTON DC, SEPT. 15, 2013 — -- STEPHANOPOULOS: Good morning. And welcome to a special edition of "This Week." One on one with the commander-in-chief. At this defining moment of the Obama presidency.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is not a world we should accept. This is what's at stake.


STEPHANOPOULOS: With a crisis overseas, new showdowns with congress here at home, we go inside the White House, challenging the president trying to save his second term and stop a war. One on one with President Obama...


STEPHANOPOULOS: You've done it in the past.

OBAMA: No, no, no, no. George...


STEPHANOPOULOS: An ABC News exclusive.

Plus, live analysis from our powerhouse roundtable. It's all right here this Sunday morning.

ANNOUNCER: From ABC News, a special This Week with George Stephanopoulos starts now.

STEPHANOPOULOS: It has been a perilous month for President Obama. After that chemical weapons massacre in Syria, he took America right to the brink of a military strike, then backed away, turning to congress first and surprisingly the Russians, choosing diplomacy over war.

And this weekend, a major new development, Secretary of State John Kerry and his Russian counterpart has struck a deal for Syria to surrender its chemical weapons. If it works -- and that's a big if right now -- the president may be able to claim a measure of victory for an approach that's brought in a mountain of criticism.

And on the eve of the deal, we went inside the White House to speak with the president. He was confident, convinced that America is in a better position now than when he was poised to order military action just two weeks ago.


OBAMA: Well, we're definitely in a better position.


OBAMA: Keep in mind that my entire goal throughout this exercise is to make sure that what happened on August 21st does not happen again, that we do not see over 1,000 people, over 400 children subjected to poison gas, something that is a violation of international law, and is a violation of...

STEPHANOPOULOS: Are you confident that won't happen again?

OBAMA: ...common decency.

Well, I think we have the possibility of making sure that it doesn't happen again.

Think about where we were. This event happens, and the initial response is the Syrians act as if they don't know anything about it. At that point, they're not even acknowledging that they've got chemical weapons.

The Russians are protecting the Syrians, suggesting that there's no possibility that the Assad regime might have done this. And the inspectors weren't even in yet. And as a consequence of the pressure that we've applied over the last couple of weeks, we have Syria first -- for the first time acknowledging that it has chemical weapons, agreeing to join the convention that prohibits the use of chemical weapons. And the Russians, they're primary sponsors, saying that they will push Syria to get all of their chemical weapons out

The distance that we've traveled over these couple of weeks is remarkable. And my position, and the United States' position, has been consistent throughout. Which is that the underlying civil conflict in Syria is terrible. I believe that because of Assad's actions, his response to peaceful protests, we've created a civil war in Syria that has led to 100,000 people being killed and 6 million people being displaced.