Secretary Tillerson Discusses U.S. Strategy in Syria Following Military Airstrike

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U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

Secretary Tillerson Discusses U.S. Strategy in Syria Following Military Airstrike

On April 9, U.S. Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson appeared on ABC This Week and CBS Face the Nation to discuss the situation in Syria and the importance of the war to defeat ISIS in the United States’ strategy there.

During a discussion with John Dickerson on CBS Face The Nation Secretary Tillerson addressed the message the United States intended to convey through the April 7 military airstrikes it carried out in Syria in response to the use of chemical weapons in the country. 

“I think that the President was quite clear in his statement that he made to the American people that Syria’s continued violations of UN resolutions and previous agreements that Syria had entered into regarding the chemical weapons accord would no longer be tolerated. I think we have stood by and watched multiple weapon – chemical weapons attacks by the Syrian regime under the leadership of Bashar al-Assad, and this one in particular was the most horrific since the major chemical attack back in 2013. And I think that is clearly the message is that the violation of international norms, the continuing ignoring of UN resolutions, and the continuing violation of agreements that they themselves entered into, will no longer be tolerated.” - Secretary Tillerson on CBS Face the Nation

When Dickerson asked about the legitimacy of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and the United States’ policy in Syria, Secretary Tillerson stated:

“The United States’ own founding principles are self-determination, and I think what the United States and our allies want to do is to enable the Syrian people to make that determination. And we’ve seen what violent regime change looks like in Libya and the kind of chaos that can be unleashed, and indeed the kind of misery that it enacts on its own people. I think what we’re hopeful is through this Syrian process, working with coalition members, working with the UN, and in particular working through the Geneva process, that we can navigate a political outcome in which the Syrian people, in fact, will determine Bashar al-Assad’s fate and his legitimacy. And I think the question of how his criminal actions and -- are dealt with is something that will be part of that process.” - Secretary Tillerson on CBS Face the Nation

During an interview with George Stephanopoulos on ABC This Week, Secretary Tillerson also commented on the April 4 chemical weapons attack in Syria and President Trump’s decision to employ targeted military airstrikes in response.

“I think the President was very clear in his message to the American people that this strike was related solely to the most recent horrific use of chemical weapons against women, children, and, as the President said, even small babies. The strike was a message to Bashar al-Assad that your multiple violations of your agreements at the UN, your agreements under the chemical weapons charter back in 2013, that those would not go without a response in the future.  And we are asking Russia to fulfill its commitment, and we are asking and calling on Bashar al-Assad to cease the use of these weapons.  Other than that, there is no change to our military posture.” -- Secretary Tillerson on ABC This Week 

When Stephanopoulos asked about next steps following the United States’ recent airstrikes, Secretary Tillerson underscored the importance of the effort  to defeat of ISIS in our strategy in Syria.

“Once we can eliminate the battle against ISIS...– and it is going quite well – then we hope to turn our attention to achieving ceasefire agreements between the regime and opposition forces. And in that regard, we are hopeful that we can work with Russia and use their influence to achieve areas of stabilization throughout Syria and create the conditions for a political process through Geneva in which we can engage all the parties on a way forward. And it is through that political process that we believe the Syrian people will ultimately be able to decide the fate of Bashar al-Assad.”  --Secretary Tillerson on ABC This Week 

In addition to discussing the situation in Syria in both interviews, Secretary Tillerson also discussed President Trump’s recent meetings with Chinese President Xi, the United States’ objectives in North Korea, his upcoming trip to Lucca and Moscow, and more.

You can read the full transcripts of the Secretary's interviews here.

Editor's Note: This entry is also published on Medium.com/StateDept.

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