Tillerson: Strikes don’t signal change in military action policy in Syria

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Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Thursday said a missile attack in Syria ordered by President Trump Thursday isn’t a sign of a change in U.S. policy.

“This clearly indicates the president is willing to take decisive action when called for,” Tillerson said shortly after Trump launched more than 50 Tomahawk missiles at an airfield in Syria.

“I would not in any way attempt to extrapolate that to a change in our policy or posture relative to our military activities in Syria today. There has been no change in that status,” he added. “I think it does demonstrate that President Trump is willing to act when governments and actors cross the line and cross the line on violating commitments they’ve made and cross the line in the most heinous of ways.”

{mosads}Syria has been decimated by a civil war that began in 2011. Trump ordered the missiles launched in response to a chemical attack Tuesday that officials attribute to Syrian President Bashar Assad’s forces. Dozens of rebels were killed in the chemical attack, including women and children.

Late Thursday, Trump said the decision to order a missile strike was a “vital national security interest” and would “prevent and deter the spread and use of deadly chemical weapons.”

National security adviser H.R. McMaster, appearing alongside Tillerson Thursday, said the strikes likely won’t eliminate the Assad government’s capacity to carry out chemical attacks.

“Obviously the regime will maintain a certain capacity to commit mass murder with chemical weapons we think beyond this particular air field. But it was aimed at this particular airfield for a reason, because we could trace this murderous act back to that facility,” he said. 

McMaster also said the U.S. airstrike should communicate a “big shift in Assad’s calculus.” 

Asked whether the strike is aimed at sending a message or damaging Assad’s military capacity, McMaster responded: “This is the first time that the United States has taken direct military action against that regime or the regime of his father. So I think it was critical is with the president’s decision in response to this mass murder attack but also in the context of all the previous attacks that have occurred – I think is over 50 – chemical attacks previously, post 2013 when the UN resolution went into effect.”

“So I think it was both,” he said.”It was aimed at the capacity to commit mass murder with chemical weapons but it was not of a scope or a scale that it would go after all such related facilities.”

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