What's Next in Syria and North Korea?
While Tillerson is attending a G7 summit in Italy to discuss Syria and ways to counter the Islamic State terror organization, North Korea says 'ready for war' after US redeploys navy strike team
The Trump administration has signalled much broader grounds for future military intervention in Syria, suggesting it might retaliate against the Assad regime for barrel bomb attacks.
On the eve of a critical visit to Moscow at a time of high US-Russian tensions over Syria, the US secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, appeared to go even further, saying his country would come to the defence of innocent civilians “anywhere in the world”, as reported in The Guardian.
However, the White House has sent mixed signals on its strategy towards Syria:
During his official visit to Europe, Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson outlined yesterday an interventionist approach. “We rededicate ourselves to holding to account any and all who commit crimes against the innocents anywhere in the world,” he said, as reported in The New York Times.
The Trump administration had initially stressed strictly limited objectives for a cruise missile strike last week on a Syrian air force base, saying it was intended to deter the repeat of a chemical attack on Tuesday against civilians and that the focus of US efforts in Syria remains combating the Islamic State (Isis).
Tillerson spoke from Italy, where attended a G7 foreign ministers’ meeting in Lucca that was dominated by discussion of western policy towards Damascus and Moscow. The UK foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, who cancelled his own planned visit to Moscow on Monday, said the ministerswould be “discussing the possibility of further sanctions certainly on some of the Syrian military figures and indeed on some of the Russian military figures who have been involved in coordinating the Syrian military effort”.
On Sunday, Mr. Tillerson called Russia “incompetent” for allowing Syria to hold on to chemical weapons, and he accused Russia of trying to influence elections in Europe using the same methods it employed in the United States.
Today, the ministers will discuss Syria again before Tillerson flies on to Moscow. According to one G7 source cited by The Guardian, Tillerson plans to offer the Putin regime a bald choice, between cutting Bashar al-Assad loose and being rewarded with a thaw in relations with the west; or continuing to back him, and risking a Libyan-style outcome. The Libyan leader, Muammar Gaddafi, was violently deposed and killed in 2011 by rebels lent air support by Nato powers, including the UK.
On the other hand, the U.S. strike on Syria and its positioning of a Navy carrier strike group near the Korean Peninsula are feeding fears of a military response if North Korea conducts another nuclear test.
China and South Korea agreed to toughen sanctions on the North in the case of new tests, possibly aiming to persuade North Korea to refrain as it celebrates the birthday of its founder, Kim Il-sung, on Saturday.