Tillerson walks backs comments on Assad role in postwar Syria

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has reversed himself from previous statements hinting that Syrian president Bashar Assad would be able to stay in power after the civil war ended.  Tillerson now saysthere will be "no role" for Assad in a postwar Syria.

In late March. Tillerson strongly suggested that removing Assad is "up to the Syrian people" – similar language to that being used by Russia and Iran.

Indicating a possible shift in US policy on the war in Syria from the days of the Obama administration, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said on a trip to Turkey that the "longer-term status of President Assad will be decided by the Syrian people."

And in New York, US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley was even stronger about the Trump administration's decision not to push for Assad's departure. "Our priority is no longer to sit and focus on getting Assad out," Haley told wire reporters Thursday, according to AFP.

"Do we think he's a hindrance? Yes," she said. "Are we going to sit there and focus on getting him out? No."

It is unclear if Tillerson's and Haley's words were simply misunderstood or that the administration was contemplating a change in policy.  Whatever the reason, Tillerson sought to clarify his remarks following the brutal gas attack on civilians and in advance of the U.S. retaliatory strike on Syria early this morning.

The Hill:

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Thursday said the U.S. is considering an "appropriate response" to the Syrian government's apparent use of chemical weapons and that he sees "no role" in the country for President Bashar Assad.

"The process by which Assad would leave is something that requires an international community effort both to first defeat ISIS within Syria, to stabilize the Syrian country to avoid further civil war and then to work collectively with our partners around the world through a political process that would lead to Assad leaving," Tillerson said at a news conference in Palm Beach, Fla. 

"Assad’s role in the future is uncertain, clearly, and with the acts that he has taken, it would seem that there would be no role for him to govern the Syrian people," he said.

Unfortunately, the U.S. will not be a major player in any negotiations to end the conflict.  The decision by both the Obama and Trump administrations to keep the civil war at arm's length and concentrate on fighting ISIS means that Russia and Turkey will play a far larger role than the U.S. in shaping a postwar Syria.

That may be for the best.  Creating a stable state out of the chaos in Syria is going to take a herculean effort.  If Russia and Turkey wish to get bogged down in that effort, they are welcome to do it.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has reversed himself from previous statements hinting that Syrian president Bashar Assad would be able to stay in power after the civil war ended.  Tillerson now saysthere will be "no role" for Assad in a postwar Syria.

In late March. Tillerson strongly suggested that removing Assad is "up to the Syrian people" – similar language to that being used by Russia and Iran.

Indicating a possible shift in US policy on the war in Syria from the days of the Obama administration, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said on a trip to Turkey that the "longer-term status of President Assad will be decided by the Syrian people."

And in New York, US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley was even stronger about the Trump administration's decision not to push for Assad's departure. "Our priority is no longer to sit and focus on getting Assad out," Haley told wire reporters Thursday, according to AFP.

"Do we think he's a hindrance? Yes," she said. "Are we going to sit there and focus on getting him out? No."

It is unclear if Tillerson's and Haley's words were simply misunderstood or that the administration was contemplating a change in policy.  Whatever the reason, Tillerson sought to clarify his remarks following the brutal gas attack on civilians and in advance of the U.S. retaliatory strike on Syria early this morning.

The Hill:

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Thursday said the U.S. is considering an "appropriate response" to the Syrian government's apparent use of chemical weapons and that he sees "no role" in the country for President Bashar Assad.

"The process by which Assad would leave is something that requires an international community effort both to first defeat ISIS within Syria, to stabilize the Syrian country to avoid further civil war and then to work collectively with our partners around the world through a political process that would lead to Assad leaving," Tillerson said at a news conference in Palm Beach, Fla. 

"Assad’s role in the future is uncertain, clearly, and with the acts that he has taken, it would seem that there would be no role for him to govern the Syrian people," he said.

Unfortunately, the U.S. will not be a major player in any negotiations to end the conflict.  The decision by both the Obama and Trump administrations to keep the civil war at arm's length and concentrate on fighting ISIS means that Russia and Turkey will play a far larger role than the U.S. in shaping a postwar Syria.

That may be for the best.  Creating a stable state out of the chaos in Syria is going to take a herculean effort.  If Russia and Turkey wish to get bogged down in that effort, they are welcome to do it.

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