US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley has said that she sees regime change in Syria as one of the Trump administration’s priorities in the country wracked by civil war.
“We don’t see a peaceful Syria with [President Bashar al-Assad] in there,” Haley said in an interview with CNN.
Ms Haley’s comments came as US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said he saw no reason for Russia to retaliate over US missile strikes on a Syrian air base last week.
Tillerson said Washington’s first priority remained the defeat of Islamic State (IS). Once the threat from IS has been reduced or eliminated, “I think we can turn our attention directly to stabilizing the situation in Syria,” Tillerson said. “If we can achieve ceasefires in zones of stabilization in Syria – we hope we will have the conditions to begin a useful political process.” In the CNN interview, Haley said defeating Islamic State, pushing Iranian influence out of Syria, and the ousting al-Assad are priorities for Washington.
“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 al-Assad,” she stressed. “Regime change is something that we think is going to happen.” The ambassador, however, emphasized that defeating the Daes/ISIL terror group was still a top policy goal in Syria.
The comments represented a departure from what Haley had said before the US military launched a massive missile strike against a Syrian airbase in the early hours of Friday. “You pick and choose your battles and when we’re looking at this, it’s about changing up priorities and our priority is no longer to sit there and focus on getting Assad out,” Haley had told reporters on March 30. President Donald Trump said the operation was in response to a suspected chemical attack this week, which Washington has blamed on the Assad government. Syria and Russia said the chemical explosion in Idlib, which left more than 80 people dead, was caused by an airstrike on a militant-controlled depot.
The missile strikes on al-Shayrat airfield in Homs showed the lack of any coherent foreign policy by the Trump administration, according to international relations experts. That has also been evident in conflicting statements by administration officials. Members of US Congress have demanded that the Trump administration develop a broader strategy for Syria and consult with lawmakers on any military action. The United States has been conducting airstrikes against purported Daesh targets inside Syria since September 2014 without any authorization from Damascus or a UN mandate.—APP