Iran's Rouhani calls Assad to stress backing for Syrian state

It seems the White House needs to work harder at unifying its message as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson seemed to put forward different views about the future of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Haley said she doesn't see a political solution in Syria with Assad remaining as president, but that other US priorities were defeating Islamic State and to "get the Iranian influence out". Images of civilians suffering the apparent effects of a gas attack, including convulsions, vomiting and foaming at the mouth, provoked worldwide outrage and prompted U.S. President Donald Trump to order a strike on a Syrian airbase.

A week ago, Haley and Tillerson said that the U.S. was not working towards unseating Assad, and that such a decision should be up to the Syrian people.

After last Tuesday's chemical attack in Syria, Trump said his attitude toward Assad "has changed very much".

Russian Federation and Iran have issued a warning to the U.S. as G7 foreign ministers prepared to meet in Italy to discuss Syria.

As the ground rapidly shifted regarding the USA approach to Syria, Tillerson made it clear that Washington hopes Assad will not be part of Syria's future.

But asked about the possibility of further intervention, the secretary of state said Washington's "first priority" in Syria was to defeat Islamic State terror group, also known as Daesh.

"Here's what I think Assad's telling Trump by flying from this base: FU", said Sen.

Haley said "getting Assad out is not the only priority" and that countering Iran's influence in Syria was another.

"Our priority in Syria", Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told CBS's "Face the Nation". " "I think he's making a serious mistake".

Tillerson said the USA priority in Syria was defeating Islamic State, the militant group also known as ISIS.

He said it had failed to prevent Syria from carrying out a chemical attack on the rebel-held town of Khan Sheikhoun last Wednesday which left 89 people dead. "And saying we are only going after chemical weapons areas ignores the enormity of the problem".

Western governments, rebel leaders and a weapons expert all criticised this claim, saying the evidence pointed to an attack by the Syrian government.

Tillerson is heading to Lucca, Italy, for a two-day meeting of G7 foreign ministers that starts Monday, and he will continue from there to Moscow for meetings with Sergey Lavrov, his Russian counterpart, and other Russian officials. "From now on, we will respond with force to any aggressor or any breach of red lines from whoever it is, and America knows our ability to respond well".

Reluctant to put significant troops on the ground in Syria, the USA for years has struggled to prevent Assad from strengthening his hold on power.

  • Jon Douglas