On Sunday, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley offered dueling takes on the Administration’s Syrian policy. Tillerson, speaking on ABC’s This Week, said that the Administration does not support regime change in the country. However, Haley, speaking on CNN’s State of the Union, said that removing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is a top priority.
Tillerson was asked about regime change by host George Stephanopoulos and the Secretary of State warned about it, citing what happened in Libya after the fall of dictator Muammar Gaddafi. Stephanopoulos followed up by asking if there was any change to American policy regarding al-Assad and Tillerson responded, “That’s correct, George.”
Last week, the Trump Administration said that the policy of the United States was not to focus on removing al-Assad from power. At that time, Tillerson and Haley were on the same page. Tillerson said at the time that the “longer-term status of President Assad will be decided by the Syrian people.” Haley had said, “Our priority is no longer to sit and focus on getting Assad out.”
However on Sunday, Haley said that removing al-Assad was a priority for the United States, “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.”
“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,” she said.
During the campaign, Donald Trump criticized the Obama Administration’s strategy of fighting ISIS and al-Assad concurrently, calling it “idiocy.”