In an interview on CNN’s State of the Union, Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the UN, stated that she sees regime change in Syria as one of the Trump administration’s priorities, along with defeating Islamic State and pushing the Iranian influence out of Syria.
This is a departure from previous comments made by Sean Spicer that indicated a regime change was not part of the political reality of the country after last week’s chemical attacks on the Syrian people by Assad’s government.
“There’s not any sort of option where a political solution is going to happen with Assad at the head of the regime,” said Haley. “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.”
However, she pointed out the first priority is the defeat of ISIS. Still, it is definitely a departure from comments Haley made on March 30, days before the latest chemical weapons attack. “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,” said Haley.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has also voiced the highest priority being the defeat of ISIS, but he noted that once that threat is reduced or eliminated, that attention could be turned to stabilizing Syria.
It is also worthy to note that Haley mentioned pushing Iranian influence out of Syria. Iran has been a key ally of Assad, sending in forces, weapons and tactical assistance to the Syrian government. Iran has also been exposed as having training camps where forces from Syria are trained in various urban warfare tactics and terrorist training before being sent back to Syria.
“At the end of the day, this is a complicated situation and there are no easy solutions,” said Haley. She noted that she believes regime change will happen because all parties will see that Assad is not going to be the best option for ruling Syria.
At the same time, no one has committed U.S. forces to an actual removal of Assad from power and the assumption is that regime change is the natural result of Assad’s actions against his people. President Trump’s ordering of air strikes against the Syrian base where the chemical attack were initiated, was a response in part to the suffering of the Syrian people and to protect U.S. interests regarding countries having and using chemical weapons.