Secretary of State Rex Tillerson appeared on ABC’s This Week with host George Stephanopoulos to discuss the recent American bombing of a Syrian airbase.
Secretary Tillerson explained that while it might seem as if the action flies in the face of President Trump’s campaign rhetoric, the truth is that the US posture towards the Assad regime remains unchanged. The attack was simply an attempt to send a message to Bashar Assad that the use of chemical weapons would not be permitted or excused. The attack did not signal a shift in Trump administration policy and we should not expect the United States to do anything more or less than what we have already been doing in Syria.
George Stephanopoulos: But but you accept that right now, the Syrian people have no way to remove Assad. That’s going to take greater pressure from the United States, from the international coalition, perhaps military pressure.
Rex Tillerson: Well ultimately it could, George, but we’ve seen what that looks like when you undertake a violent regime change in Libya and the situation in Libya continues to be very chaotic and I would argue that the life of the Libyan people has — is not all that well off today, so I think we have to learn the lessons of the past and learn the lessons of what went wrong in Libya when you choose that pathway of regime change. So we know this is going to be hard work, but we think it’s also a process that will lead to a durable and lasting stability inside of Syria. Any time you go in and have a violent change at the top, it is very difficult to create the conditions for stability longer term.
George Stephanopoulos: So it sounds like from what you’re saying right now, there is no real change in the United States’ military stance towards Syria from what it was last week.
Rex Tillerson: That’s correct, George. This strike — 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, so 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’re 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.