National Security Advisor Gen. H.R. McMaster on Sunday said the U.S. seeks a regime change in Syria, the Washington Times reported.
In his first televised interview, McMaster pointed to dual U.S. goals of defeating the Islamic State group and removing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. But he suggested that Trump was seeking a global political response for regime change from U.S. allies as well as Russia, which he said needed to reevaluate its support of Syria.
“It’s very difficult to understand how a political solution could result from the continuation of the Assad regime,” McMaster told Fox News Sunday. “Now, we are not saying that we are the ones who are going to effect that change. What we are saying is, other countries have to ask themselves some hard questions. Russia should ask themselves, ‘Why are we supporting this murderous regime that is committing mass murder of its own population?’”
Nikki Haley, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, signaled the shift as well when she told NBC’s "Meet the Press," “In no way do we see peace in that area with Assad as the head of the Syrian government.”
McMaster, an Army lieutenant general, also stated the U.S. wanted to be a part of a global response that would include its allies, as well as Russia and Iran.
However, the Kremlin issued a statement that said Russian President Vladimir Putin had already been in contact with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani about the missile strike President Donald Trump ordered Thursday against a Syrian military base. Both Russia and Iran have criticized the U.S. for the attack.
“Both sides noted the inadmissibility of aggressive U.S. actions against a sovereign state in violation of international law,” the statement said. “Vladimir Putin and Hassan Rouhani spoke in favor of an objective, unbiased investigation of all the circumstances of the chemical weapons incident on April 4 in the Syrian province of Idlib.”
Rouhani, a so-called moderate who faces re-election this year, indicated the U.S. strike would not affect Iran’s policy on Syria.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told ABC’s "This Week" there had been no change in the U.S. position on Russia since the decision was made to launch the attack against Syria. It came after Assad purportedly used chemical weapons early last week against civilians in northern Syria. That attack killed scores of people.
“We are asking Russia to fulfill its commitment, and we’re asking and calling on Bashar al-Assad to cease the use of these weapons,” Tillerson said, in reference to an agreement in 2013 put together by the Obama administration whereby Moscow guaranteed Syria’s chemical stockpiles had been removed. “Other than that, there is no change to our military posture.”
Tillerson will become the first Trump administration official to visit Russia when he flies on Wednesday to Moscow amid new tensions between the two countries over the Syrian attack.
Information from the AP was used in this report.
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