Tillerson says steps taken to mobilize coalition to remove Assad — but only after ISIL defeated

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Pressure built on U.S. President Donald Trump to act in Syria one day after he said a poison-gas attack that killed scores of civilians and drew international condemnation went beyond a “red line” for him.

“We are considering an appropriate response,” Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told reporters Thursday in Palm Beach, Florida. “It is serious matter. It requires a serious response.”

Tillerson said “steps are underway” to mobilize a coalition to remove Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, but he also said that any such effort would likely come after Islamic State terrorists in the country are defeated and some stability returns to Syria. He added that “it’s very important that the Russian government consider carefully their continued support to the Assad regime.”

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The president is “being presented with a lot of options,” White House spokesman Sean Spicer said earlier in the day, adding that he wouldn’t preview those alternatives until Trump is ready to decide. He said the president has spoken to other leaders about the possibility of setting up “safe zones” to protect civilians.

Republican Senator John McCain, a longtime proponent of removing Assad, said the administration should bomb runways to make sure the regime’s air force is grounded. Senator Bob Corker, who chairs the Foreign Relations Committee, said he believed Trump was weighing both military and non-military options for responding to the attack. Corker said more pressure should be put on Russian President Vladimir Putin, who he said is supporting a “monster” and “war criminal” in Assad.

At the United Nations, diplomats may seek a vote by Thursday evening on a resolution condemning the attack and demanding access to Syrian air bases by UN investigators. Russia, which has backed Assad militarily since late 2015, would probably veto that measure. Tillerson is scheduled to meet with Putin next week in Moscow.

Go to National Post to read more.

My view: the latest chemical attack in Syria puts the U.S. under pressure to act. It suggests that steps proposed the Secretary of State, if implemented, would certainly collide with political interests of Russia in the region. Knowing that President Putin does not tollorate descend, the question is whether we would soon learn something else regarding Donald Trump’s dealings with Russia.

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