What sort of message is Donald Trump trying to send to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad? Don’t expect Donald Trump, who went right from bombing to golfing, to know, or to even give any further thought to it as he turns from one distraction to another, in North Korea.
As a carrier strike force sails to Korea, the Trump administration is still sending conflicting messages about its approach to what Secretary of State Rex Tillerson characterized as the Assad regime’s “horrific” war crimes in Syria.
The Trump team seemed unsure how to respond to Assad before the April 4 chemical attack, and though Trump expressed outrage, his “best people” have shown they are no closer to a coherent position now following the deaths of dozens of children.
Watch the report from CNN’s New Day:
— New Day (@NewDay) April 10, 2017
Rex Tillerson said Russia bore “some level of responsibility” for the Syrian chemical attack:
“Regardless of whether Russia was complicit here, or whether they were simply incompetent or whether they got outwitted by the Bashar al-Assad regime, clearly they have failed in their commitment to the international community.”
UN Ambassador Nikki Haley and National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster both remain open to additional sanctions, with Haley saying “I don’t believe anything is off the table at this point.”
Tillerson says ISIS is the priority, not Assad. We have already seen John McCain’s response to this, that the two cannot be separated, that America can “walk and chew gum.”
Haley, in contrast to Tillerson and in agreement with McCain, says Assad has to go: “There is not any sort of option where a political solution is going to happen with Assad as head of the regime.”
Haley is saying the U.S. is “prepared to do more” in Syria while Tillerson seems to be dismissing the possibility of doing anything. Which is it? One? The other? Both? It is anyone’s guess.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) also questioned Tillerson, saying that the strategy the secretary of state “seems to be outlining is based on assumptions that aren’t going to work. There is no such thing as Assad yes but ISIS no.”
With respect to Rubio, it seems a bit late to become concerned with Donald Trump and false premises being found in the same sentence.
Americans are going to have to become used to (if they have not already) competing stories coming out of the Trump administration. It is anyone’s guess what is really going on, or if the confusion we are seeing goes straight to the often unoccupied desk of Donald J. Trump.
Republicans are in general agreement that Trump’s response – the same response they denied President Obama – is a much-needed “corrective” to the foreign policy they would not let Obama pursue.
It is not unreasonable at this point to interpret this alleged “corrective” as underlining a preference for a lack of any discernible foreign policy.
And if there is any sort of messaging being sent to Syria and Russia or even Iran, it is impossible for us – and probably those countries – to determine what that message might be.