Trump’s vision on Syria’s foreign policy is still completely incoherent

ThinkProgress reports: President Trump ordered the launch of 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles at a Syrian airfield late Thursday in response to a chemical weapons attack that killed 70 people earlier in the week. The decision represented a huge shift from the administration’s earlier approach toward the Syrian government, but it is also remarkable because it shows the lack of any coherent foreign policy.

Last week, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and UN ambassador Nikki Haley told reporters that the Trump administration wouldn’t try to remove Syrian President Bashar al-Assad from power. “Do we think he’s a hindrance? Yes. Are we going to sit there and focus on getting him out? No,” Haley said. “What we are going to focus on is putting the pressure in there so that we can start to make a change in Syria.”

Even after Thursday’s airstrike on the Shayrat airbase, which the Pentagon has identified as holding chemical weapons, the Trump administration claims it has still not changed its position on Syria.

“I would not in any way attempt to extrapolate that to a change in our policy or posture relative to our military activities in Syria today. There has been no change in that status,” Tillerson told reporters after the strike. “I think it does demonstrate that President Trump is willing to act when governments and actors cross the line and cross the line on violating commitments they’ve made and cross the line in the most heinous of ways.”

International relations experts say that this is a sign of the Trump administration’s incoherent foreign policy.

“Trump made an 180 on this and it is a pretty striking 180. Just last week, senior officials were talking about coming to terms with Assad and legitimizing Assad,” said Shadi Hamid, a senior fellow at the The Brookings Institution’s Center for Middle East Policy. “It is concerning that Trump’s approach to Syria and maybe to foreign policy writ large is completely incoherent.”

Hamid said it’s strange that Trump would meet with Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi earlier in the week, given his disastrous human rights record, and then make the decision to launch cruise missiles in Syria. [Continue reading…]

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