Tillerson pushes Russian Federation to abandon Assad regime

Senior White House officials accused Russian Federation of trying to cover up the suspected Syrian chemical attack last week, adding that the US has concluded the Syrian military used banned sarin gas in the assault. The Syrian government has denied using chemical weapons.

Mattis, who vowed that the main objective in Syria is still eradicating ISIS, downplayed tension between the USA and Russian Federation, claiming the relationship “will not spiral out of control”.

President Donald Trump had hinted he would be less interventionist than his predecessors and more willing to turn a blind eye to human rights abuses if it was in United States interests. Amid many threats flaring up around the world, WSJ’s Gerald F. Seib explains why North Korea, not Syria, should be on top of the list.

“It is clear to us the reign of the Assad family is coming to an end”, he said shortly before leaving the Tuscan city of Lucca for Moscow.

The nerve gas attack, which killed 87 people, many of them children, and Russia’s allegation that rebels and not Damascus were responsible have chilled US relations with Moscow after a presidential campaign during which Trump frequently called for an alliance with Russian Federation to fight Islamic State militants in Syria and Iraq.

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A U.S. Navy admiral said the missile strikes had destroyed the ability of the Syrian military to launch chemical strikes from the base.

Tillerson will meet with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Moscow later this week.

The timing of the comments, with Tillerson heading soon to Moscow, signaled the administration’s intent to pressure Russian Federation to step away from Assad, who is supported by the Kremlin with military aid and diplomatic cover. Only a week ago, top Trump officials had spoken off deprioritizing past US efforts to remove Assad from office and accepting the “reality” that 18 months of Russian military intervention had secured him in power.

Tillerson is travelling Tuesday to Moscow.

Trump’s United Nations ambassador, Nikki Haley, said the United States had “multiple priorities” in Syria and that stability there was impossible with Assad as president.

The United States has blamed the chemical attack, launched on a town in Syria’s Idlib province, on the administration of President Bashar Assad, which has been entangled in a civil war fighting opposition groups ranging from moderate rebels to US -designated terrorist organizations since 2011.

The United States has sought to minimize expectations for the trip or the likelihood that the USA will leave with any Russian concessions on Syria.

“Our task … was to strike a base that was directly related to the [Idlib] chemical weapons attack”, he told reporters at the Pentagon.

Beyond Syria are disputes over Russia’s 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea region and support for pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine.

“There’s always been this tension or this sense that Assad is a really bad guy, and it would be great to somehow remove him, but not removing the regime itself”, he says.

But Assad’s decision to use chemical weapons rattled Trump, who authorized last Thursday’s missile strike on a Syrian airbase after being taken aback by images of children suffering from the gassing.

Tillerson’s approach runs counter to what he said in an interview on Sunday, in which he stated that the USA needs to “keep its priorities straight and focus on ISIS”, using the abbreviated name for the Islamic State militant group. What we are saying is, other countries have to ask themselves some hard questions.

Putin also asserted that Syria has complied with an agreement to dispose of chemical weapons “so far as we know”.

These evolving and sometimes conflicting messages may leave both allies and adversaries uncertain about where the USA stands.

“That’s why we are not presupposing how that occurs”, Tillerson added.

British Prime Minister Theresa May’s office said she and U.S. President Donald Trump spoke by phone Monday and agreed there is a “window of opportunity” to persuade Russian Federation that its support for Assad is “no longer in its strategic interest”. Putin and Tillerson have had several meetings in the past prior to his role in the Trump administration. TAXES Trump, in a Fox Business interview, says tax reform “will be better” if legislation to dismantle Obamacare is passed first by Congress because of the tax savings from the Republican health plan.

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