When U.S President Donald Trump assumed official duties in the White House this year, he made it clear that defeating ISIS in Syria was his administration's main aim during his tenure, but following the chemical weapons attack on civilians in Syrian last week, which is believed was carried out by president Bashar al-Assad, the United States has now revealed removing the Syrian leader from power is now top priority.
The air strikes drew praises from majority of Americans and international leaders, while receiving great rebuttal and rebuke from Russia (Syria's strongest ally), Iran and North Korea.
Before Tuesday's chemical attack on the rebel-held town of Khan Sheikhoun, which killed almost 100 people, with kids forced to gasp for air, US ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley had said removing Assad was not a priority, but with the political situation in Syria not likely to improve any sooner coupled with Syria's use of chemical weapons, Haley has now revealed that toppling the Syrian leader is now top priority.
"Getting Assad out is not the only priority. So what we're trying to do is obviously defeat ISIS. Secondly, we don't see a peaceful Syria with Assad in there. Thirdly, get the Iranian influence out.'
' And then finally move towards a political solution, because at the end of the day this is a complicated situation, there are no easy answers and a political solution is going to have to happen," she said in an interview with CNN's 'State of the Union'.
"If you look at his actions, if you look at the situation, it's going to be hard to see a government that's peaceful and stable with Assad," she said.
"Regime change is something that we think is going to happen because all of the parties are going to see that Assad is not the leader that needs to be taking place for Syria."
Ahead of a meeting between U.S Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and the Russian government this week in Moscow, top Trump officials have also 'ordered' Russia to drop its public and military support of Bashar al-Assad or face a deterioration in it's relationship with the U.S.
In reaction to the U.S military strikes on the Syrian military air base, Russia pledged to beef up Syrian air defenses.
Top Trump officials are now demanding Russia step away from Assad or risk more trouble with the U.S, with investigations underway to ascertain if Russia were involved in the chemical attacks on civilians.
“I hope Russia is thinking carefully about its continued alliance with Bashar al-Assad, because every time one of these horrific attacks occurs, it draws Russia closer into some level of responsibility,” Rex Tillerson, U.S Secretary of State, said on ABC’s “This Week.”
Although U.S officials acknowledged that they have seen no evidence directly linking Russia to the attacks, national security adviser H.R. McMaster said Russia should answer what it knew ahead of the chemical attack since it has arranged warplanes and air defense systems with associated troops in Syria since 2015.
“I think what we should do is ask Russia, how could it be, if you have advisers at that airfield, that you didn’t know that the Syrian air force was preparing and executing a mass murder attack with chemical weapons?” McMaster said on Fox News.
“I think the issue of how Bashar al-Assad’s leadership is sustained, or how he departs, is something that we’ll be working [on] with allies and others in the coalition,” said Tillerson, who after weeks of keeping a low profile was making his debut on the Sunday morning talk shows. “But I think with each of those actions, he really undermines his own legitimacy.”
“At least in the short run, it will further complicate efforts to improve the U.S.-Russia bilateral relationship, which seemed to be Tillerson’s objective in going to Moscow,” said Jeffrey Mankoff, a Russia analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
“In the longer term, the threat of further U.S. intervention is a card that the U.S. can play to get the Russians to tighten the screws on Assad — on both the chemical weapons and possibly on accepting a political deal with the opposition.”
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