Trump administration sends mixed signals on Syria ahead of G7 meeting

Apr 11, 2017, 00:22

But Secretary Tillerson called Russian Federation "incompetent" for allowing Syria to hold on to chemical weapons in interviews on Sunday, while America's United Nations ambassador Nikki Haley told CNN her country wanted regime change.

The statement, released by the Ilam al Harbi (War Media) outlet, apparently mocked former President Obama's warning to Assad in 2012 not to cross a "red line" with his use of chemical weapons or face a military response.

Days after President Trump ordered missile strikes against a Syrian air base, the apparent differences of opinion appear to highlight how little we know about whehter Trump is really going to be changing the USA policy toward Syria.

During the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump said defeating Islamic State was a higher priority than persuading Assad to step down. He was by Trump's side during his meetings with Xi and spoke publicly multiple times to address both issues. This strike was limited, but it had a clear strategic objective, which was the destruction or degrading of a key airbase installation that is used in these chemical attacks.

It was up to national security adviser H.R. McMaster to reconcile the two views, and he tried to insist there was no real difference of opinion.

In an interview Sunday with ABC's George Stephanopoulos, Sen.

Russia's government has angrily denounced the missile strike as an act of unwarranted aggression, and denied that Assad's forces carried out the attack with the banned nerve gas sarin.

Tillerson also said the United States wants to solve the Syrian crisis through global coalition, after the administration, in the days before the attack, suggested that removing Assad was not a priority.

Tillerson stopped short of accusing Russian Federation of direct involvement in planning or carrying out the attack, saying he had not seen "any hard evidence" to suggest Moscow was an accomplice to Assad.

And other members are keen to establish clarity over the U.S.'s position on Assad's regime, ahead of a visit to Russian Federation by U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Tuesday.

Johnson presented the plan to U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson during an hour-long meeting Monday afternoon ahead of the formal opening of the G7 foreign ministers' meeting in Lucca, Italy.

US-backed rebels groups have long pleaded for more U.S. intervention and complained that Washington has only fought the Islamic State group. "That's not a position any foreign secretary would want to be in".

Labour's shadow chancellor John McDonnell told Sky News: "He [Johnson] should be saying to the Russians just how appalling this situation is and the role they should play".

"Congress needs to work with the president to try and deal with this long-term strategy, lack of strategy, really, in Syria", he said. Instead, he was thrust to the forefront after photos of the bodies piled in heaps in Idlib, Syria, dramatically altered the agenda. And so on Monday, White House press secretary Sean Spicer waded into this dilemma in the worst possible way, announcing a new policy that would virtually guarantee an immediate, massive escalation of USA involvement in Syria.

Peskov, Putin's spokesman, said on Monday that the US strikes had shown Washington's total unwillingness to cooperate on Syria. Once ISIS is defeated, the United States could turn its attention to trying to help bring about a "political process" that could bring about stability in Syria, he said.

After the cruise missiles crashed down in Syria, Tillerson was calm and commanding in a question-and-answer session with journalists.

Cohen, a conservative critic of Trump's foreign policy who has chided Tillerson for his reticence, said he saw Tillerson growing into the job. I think it's based on assumptions that quite frankly are not the right ones.

The challenge will be greater in Russia's capital this week.

Vladimir Putin and Hassan Rouhani said in a phone call that aggressive U.S. actions against Syria violated worldwide law. "The president will make whatever decision he thinks is in the best interests of the American people".

Russia's 2014 annexation of Crimea from Ukraine led the G-7 to suspend Russia's involvement from what had been the G-8 group of nations.

Britain also said Russian Federation bore responsibility by proxy for civilian deaths in Syria last week.

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