Secretary of State Rex Tillerson vowed not to screw up Syria the way the Obama administration did in a speech at the Hoover Institute today:
American troops will remain in Syria long after their fight against the Islamic State to ensure that neither Iran nor President Bashar al-Assad of Syria take over areas that have been newly liberated with help from the United States, Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson said on Wednesday.
Staying in Syria, Mr. Tillerson said, will help ensure that the Trump administration does not repeat what he described as the mistakes of former President Barack Obama, who withdrew troops from Iraq before the extremist threat was doused and failed to stabilize Libya after NATO airstrikes that led to the overthrow of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi.
“We cannot allow history to repeat itself in Syria,” Mr. Tillerson said during a speech at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University near San Francisco. “ISIS has one foot in the grave, and by maintaining an American military presence in Syria until the full and complete defeat of ISIS is achieved, it will soon have two.”
Right away you have a key departure from the policy of both Bush and Obama who announced “we will leave by” dates that let our enemies know that if they just hunkered down, America was heading for the door.
Also, it seems like slow-motion regime change is very much on the table. When Tillerson says that we intend to ensure that neither Iran nor Assad gain control of areas evacuated by ISIS, he’s very serious:
This is the way the ruling class in Syria is convinced that Assad has to go.
In addition to those two key items, Tillerson introduced a criterion based system for determining when US military presence was no longer needed.
The United States has five key goals in Syria, Mr. Tillerson said. They are: ensuring that the Islamic State and Al Qaeda never re-emerge; supporting the United Nations-led political process; diminishing Iran’s influence; making sure the country is free of weapons of mass destruction; and helping refugees to return after years of civil war.
Diminishing Iranian influence is key to lot of things in the region and beginning to roll it back in Syria is a good place to start.
This is the video of the speech and a Twitter transcript of the high points.