A reversal to the reversal. A week ago, Tillerson tossed out Obama’s “Assad must go” policy and declared that Assad’s long-term status will be decided by the Syrian people.
Today, three days after the chemical attack in Idlib: Nope, it’ll be decided by an international coalition, with the U.S. participating. “With the acts that he has taken,” says Tillerson here, “it would seem that there would be no role for him to govern the Syrian people.” But Ass took no actions this week that he hasn’t taken before. The only difference is that he defied the Trump administration’s “red line” this time instead of Obama’s.
— Department of State (@StateDept) April 6, 2017
Watch the clip and you’ll see that, by “international coalition,” he doesn’t mean a military effort a la Gulf War I. (I think.) He’s giving you the Obama blueprint here — first defeat ISIS, then huddle with the relevant regional players on a mutually agreeable political solution to replace Assad with some new government. He and Trump will run into the same problem there as Obama did, though, namely, that Russia and Iran don’t want Assad replaced. They haven’t spent blood and treasure in Syria to see their client booted for some unstable Sunni/Alawite coalition regime that’ll last three months before descending into a new civil war. In fact, I wonder if Trump capitulating to Russia on sanctions would even be enough to get Moscow to give up Assad.
Trump weighed in this afternoon on Assad too:
“I think what Assad did is terrible. I think what happened in Syria is one of the truly egregious crimes. It shouldn’t have happened. It shouldn’t be allowed to happen,” Trump told reporters aboard Air Force One. “I think what happened in Syria is a disgrace to humanity. He’s there, and I guess he’s running things, so something should happen.”
Exit question: Is Trump prepared to defy Russian missile-defense systems in Syria to attack Assad, whether via manned aircraft or cruise missile? If Putin shoots down an American air asset, what’s the play then? Bad things tend to happen when two presidents who present themselves as strongmen end up in a wiener-measuring contest.
Update: Good catch here:
Just watched Tillerson's fuller Syria answer (was offline when he spoke): Look at sequence of events and "through a political process." pic.twitter.com/96GdSeFWQM
— Olivier Knox (@OKnox) April 6, 2017
The international community is going to pacify and stabilize Syria while Assad is still in power, and then, once things have finally quieted down, expect him to leave willingly? What?