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U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” Sunday that the Trump administration intended to build on last week’s missile strikes and ratchet up pressure against Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad.
“We want to continue to have the backs of our allies,” she said. “You are going to see pressure on the political solution. In no way do we look at peace happening in that area with Iranian influence. In no way do we see peace in that area with Russia covering up for Assad. In no way do we see peace in that area with Assad as the head of the Syrian government. And we have to make sure that we’re pushing that process.”
Haley said it was disgusting to watch Russia’s reaction to the chemical attack, seeing their “first priority was to cover for Assad.”
“Russia’s reaction was not, ‘Oh how horrible,’ or, ‘How could they do this to innocent children,’ or, ‘How awful is that?'” she said. “Their initial reaction was, ‘Assad didn’t do it. The Syrian government didn’t do it.’ Why were they that defensive that quick? The idea of the casualties came after.”
Haley praised Trump’s response to the attack, calling the strike “his finest hour since taking office, because he was very thoughtful about it.”
It remains to be seen how President Trump will follow up the surprising strike; others in the administration have said the focus will now return to the original priority; defeating ISIS in Mosul and Raqqa and allowing the political process to play out as it pertains to the Assad regime. Meanwhile, some in the Republican Party such as Sen. John McCain, are calling on Trump to pursue both goals.
As a candidate, Donald Trump criticized the use of the U.S. military when it came to interfering in Middle Eastern affairs, and he was skeptical of Obama’s actions in both Syria and Libya. On the Sunday shows, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson hinted at that position, saying there was no material change in policy, strikes or no strikes. He said that the Trump administration would continue to learn the lessons of Iraq and Libya and keep the military’s focus on destroying ISIS.
If Assad is to be removed from power, it may first require Trump to put a divide between Putin, Syria, and Iran. That, in turn, could require the removal of economic sanctions against Moscow, and that’s a whole ‘nother kettle of fish.
In the meantime, Thursday’s strikes proved that Trump is not afraid to take decisive action, even if it means disappointing a block of his supporters. That may not please everyone, but it shows him to be a true leader. Who can seriously complain?