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U.S. Policy Toward Assad Changing Away from Regime Change

March 31, 2017 (EIRNS)—The Trump Administration today took a big step toward fulfilling Trump’s campaign promise that the United States will wage no more regime-change wars, when White House spokesman Sean Spicer clearly indicated that the Administration is not seeking Syrian President Bashar al Assad’s removal. At the White House briefing today, according to news reports, a reporter asked Spicer if the Administration considered Assad the legitimate president of Syria.

"With respect to Assad, there is a political reality that we have to accept in terms of where we are right now. We lost a lot of opportunity [during] the last Administration with respect to Assad,"

Spicer said. "We need to focus on now defeating ISIS," he went on.

"The United States has profound priorities in Syria and Iraq, and we’ve made it clear that counterterrorism, particularly the defeat of ISIS, is foremost among those priorities."

Spicer’s comments today were foreshadowed by remarks made yesterday by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley.

"I think the ... longer-term status of President Assad will be decided by the Syrian people," Tillerson said in Ankara yesterday, during a joint appearance with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu. Then, later in the day, Ambassador Haley issued a statement backing Tillerson’s remarks:

"You pick and choose your battles, and when we’re looking at this, it’s about changing up priorities, and our priority is no longer to sit there and focus on getting Assad out,"

she said. "Do we think he’s a hindrance? Yes. Are we going to sit there and focus on getting him out? No," she said. "What we are going to focus on is putting the pressure in there so that we can start to make a change in Syria." A senior Trump administration official explained to Reuters that Haley’s remarks reflected

"a measure of just realism, accepting the facts on the ground.... Assad is never going to have sufficient force to reassert control over the whole country... Our focus is on defeating ISIS and al Qaeda and preventing Syria from being used as a terrorist safe haven."

Not surprisingly, various U.S "allies" and the Saudi-sponsored Syrian opposition are having fits about the Tillerson and Haley statements. Syrian opposition member Farah al-Attasi tried to argue that the State Department and the White House were sending contradictory messages on Syria, and should start leading and not focus exclusively on fighting Islamic State. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), whom Lyndon LaRouche famously characterized in 2013 as having "lost his marbles," fumed that Tillerson’s statement

"overlooks the tragic reality that the Syrian people cannot decide the fate of Assad or the future of their country when they are being slaughtered"

by Assad’s military, Russia’s air force, and Iranian-backed militias. Therefore, in McCain’s view, it’s up to the United States to practice regime-change in Syria and remove Assad from power.