Trump's Plan for Syria: Wait for Global Response
The U.S.-led forces battling the Islamic State in Syria have sharply reduced airstrikes as they await a possible response from Russian and Syrian government forces to President Trump’s missile strike on a Syrian base last week.
International leaders spent the weekend trying to deduce what doctrine might lie behind the first direct attack by the US on the forces of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad without reaching a clear conclusion. On Sunday, three of Trump’s top officials sent a message to help them understand Donald Trump’s strategy: "your move, world", as reported in The Guardian.
Trump’s national security adviser, lieutenant general HR McMaster, said Russia, as Assad’s most powerful ally, could now change the course of world events.
“Russia should ask themselves, ‘What are we doing here?’” McMaster said Sunday on Fox News. “‘Why are we supporting this murderous regime that is committing mass murder of its own population and using the most heinous weapons available?’”
In his first interview since replacing retired general Michael Flynn, the president’s first national security adviser who resigned over misleading the White House about his conversations with the Russian ambassador, McMaster said the US was still willing to make a rapprochement with the Kremlin, as Trump has suggested for months.
McMaster also said, in a shift that aligned Trump with Barack Obama before him, the president believes a political solution in Syria is all but impossible if Assad remains in power.
The aim of the Tomahawk missile strike on a Syrian airbase on Thursday, McMaster said, was to deter another use of chemical weapons after Assad’s forces killed dozens of civilians, including children, with a sarin attack on Tuesday.
McMaster and Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the UN, said on Sunday that Trump was ready to order American soldiers to attack again.
On the other hand, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who is expected to travel to Russia next Wednesday on his first diplomatic mission to the country, said the US had no information to suggest Russia actively took part in the sarin attack on the town of Khan Sheikhun, in Idlib province, but also rejected Russian claims that no one knows who was responsible for it, as reported in The Guardian.
“Whether Russia was complicit here or whether they were simply incompetent or whether they got outwitted by the Bashar al-Assadregime”, he said, the Kremlin must answer for itself.
Tillerson actually called Russia “incompetent” for allowing Syria to retain chemical weapons. Britain’s foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, canceled his trip to Moscow, citing the Kremlin’s continued support for Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad. Mr. Tillerson and Mr. Johnson will be in Italy today for the annual summit meeting of Group of 7 foreign ministers.
Throughout his presidential campaign, Trump criticized US intervention in Iraq and Libya, although he personally supported action in 2002 and 2011. After Assad killed hundreds in a similar chemical weapons attack in 2013, Trump spent months urging Obama not to intervene, at one point tweeting: “What I am saying is stay out of Syria.”
As reported in The Guardian.