A pair of Democratic congressmen is pushing President Trump to clarify whether regime change in Syria is now his administration’s official policy as leaders have given conflicting statements about if President Bashar Assad can remain in control in Damascus.
In a letter delivered Wednesday, Reps. Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.), a Marines veteran, and Brendan Boyle (D-Pa.) ask Trump to clarify his administration’s “confusing and contradictory” statements in the wake of his decision to launch U.S. missiles at a Syrian airbase.
“Given America’s escalating involvement in this conflict, we write to request clarification of this fundamental aspect of American strategy — moving forward, will your administration actively pursue the removal from power of President Assad?” the congressman wrote in their letter to Trump.
Last week, Trump ordered a U.S. military cruise missile strike against a Syrian airbase U.S. officials say was the launch point for a chemical attack against civilians carried out by forces loyal to Assad. It was the first time the U.S. military has directly intervened in the six-year-old civil war.
But in the days since, it’s been unclear how the Trump administration plans to proceed, and administration officials have given conflicting comments about how the United States views the future of Assad.
For his part, Trump said Tuesday in an interview with Fox Business News that “we’re not going into Syria.”
But Gallego and Boyle said the conflicting statements by Trump advisers suggest the administration lacks an overarching strategy for Syria.
“Moreover, this confusion among your top advisors on such a basic aspect of US policy is compelling evidence of a lack of thorough planning in advance of the airstrikes you ordered and of a troubling failure to consider their potential ramifications,” they continued in their letter to Trump.
Congress will need the administration’s strategy, they wrote, to debate a war authorization.
In the wake of last week's strikes, talk has picked up, particularly by Democrats, of the need for a new authorization for the use of military force, long stalled in Congress.
In statements accompanying the release of the letter, Gallego and Boyle also stressed Congress’s role in authorizing military action.
“Congress deserves a debate and a vote on authorizing further military action in Syria,” Gallego said. “But first, we need to know whether Trump intends to seek the removal of President Assad.”
Added Boyle: "Our Constitution makes clear that these decisions must come before Congress. Congress must not abdicate this responsibility. We, the people's elected representatives, must finally debate and vote on this issue and the president must inform us of his intentions regarding foreign policy with the Assad regime.”