Tillerson: Russia “Failed” to Keep Syria in Line

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Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Thursday that Russia was partially responsible for the devastating chemical attack launched by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Shortly after the U.S. destroyed a Syrian airbase with a round of 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles, Tillerson told reporters that Russia had not done enough to keep the nation’s chemical weapons under lock and key.

“Clearly Russia has failed in its responsibility to deliver on that commitment,” Tillerson said. “Either Russia has been complicit or Russia has been simply incompetent in its ability to deliver on its end of that agreement.”

President Barack Obama struck a deal with Moscow in 2013 after a horrifying Syrian chemical weapons attack. After securing Vladimir Putin’s word, Obama ultimately backed away from his so-called “red line” in the sand. After threatening Assad, he handed the keys to the kingdom over to Russia. And now it would appear that Russia did what many international experts suspected they would do at the time: Nothing.

Tillerson went on to say that Assad’s time in power could be coming to an end. He said Assad’s “role in the future is uncertain, clearly, and with the acts that he has taken, it would seen that there would be no role for him to govern the Syrian people.”

But, he said, any U.S. action to remove Assad would have to be as part of an international coalition.

“Both to first defeat ISIS within Syria, to stabilize the Syrian country, to avoid further civil war, and then to work collectively with our partners around the world through a political process that would lead to Assad leaving,” Tillerson said.

As for Putin, Tillerson urged the Russian president to wake up.

“It is very important that the Russian government consider carefully their continued support for the Assad regime,” he said.

Clearly, the strike against Syria – praised by U.S. allies – was only the first step. After telling reporters last week that it was not reasonable to expect regime change, Tillerson and Trump are singing a new tune. Will Trump move forward with more military action? Or will this strike be enough to prove to Assad and Putin that the U.S. will no longer stand aside and watch thuggish dictators murder and maim their own citizens?

Of the Republican presidential candidates, there were only a couple less inclined to take action against Syria than Trump. But there comes a time when there is no other choice. The U.S. either stands for something or it doesn’t. With his bold strike on Thursday, President Trump put the world on notice: He’s not afraid to back up his rhetoric with action.

Let it be a warning.