US Is Taking Steps To Remove Syrian President From Power, Rex Tillerson Says
Speaking to reporters at a news conference on Thursday, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said he sees no future role for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to govern the Syrian people and claimed the United States was considering "an appropriate response" to the use of chemical weapons in Syria. Tillerson's statement came just two days after at least 70 people were killed in a chemical bomb attack on the town of Khan Sheikhoun in Syria's rebel-held Idlib Province. The Trump administration has accused the Syrian government of being behind the attack.
"There is no doubt in our minds, and the information we have supports that Syria, the Syria regime under the leadership of President Bashar al-Assad, are responsible for this attack," Tillerson said during a news conference in Palm Beach, Florida. Tillerson then urged Russia, Syria's biggest ally, to reconsider it's support of the Assad regime.
When asked if he felt the Syrian president "had to go," Tillerson indicated as much. "Assad's role in the future is uncertain, clearly, and with the acts that he has taken it would seem that there would be no role for him to govern the Syrian people," he said.
Tillerson said he believed removing Assad from power would have to be an international effort. "The process by which Assad would leave is something that requires an international community effort 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," he said. "Those steps are underway," Tillerson replied when asked if he and President Donald Trump would organize an international coalition geared toward removing Assad from power.
While President Trump did not directly call for Assad to be ousted, he told reporters Thursday on Air Force One that he believed "something should happen" given the use of chemical weapons in Syria. "I think what Assad did is terrible," CNN reported Trump said in a statement delivered to reporters traveling with him on Air Force One.
"I think what happened in Syria is one of the truly egregious crimes. It shouldn't have happened," he said. "It shouldn't be allowed to happen. I think what happened in Syria is a disgrace to humanity. He's there, and I guess he's running things, so something should happen."
According to CNN, the president reportedly alerted lawmakers early Thursday morning to the fact that he was consulting with Defense Secretary James Mattis about potentially retaliating against the Syrian government's alleged use of chemical weapons with military action.