So much can change in just 2 weeks.
Recall that just on March 29, Trump said that based on allied victories against Islamic State militants, “We’ll be coming out of Syria, like, very soon. Let the other people take care of it now. Very soon, very soon, we’re coming out. We’re going to get back to our country, where we belong, where we want to be.”
Well, maybe not, because one oddly well-timed “chemical attack” by the Assad regime just days after Trump’s statement, the US not only launched its second massive airstrike against Syria, lobbing 105 Tomahawk cruise missiles at three empty military facilities, but no longer has any intentions of “coming out.”
Speaking on Fox News on Sunday morning, the US Ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, said that the United States “would not pull its troops out of Syria until its goals were accomplished.” The US currently has over 2,000 troops in Syria, as well as a number of contractors.
It is our goal “to see American troops come home, but we are not going to leave until we know we have accomplished those things,” Haley said and listed three aims for the United States: ensuring that chemical weapons are not used in any way that pose a risk to U.S. interests, that Islamic State is defeated and that there is a good vantage point to watch what Iran is doing.
“Be very clear, if we leave, when we leave, it will be because we know that everything is moving forward,” Haley added. Asked about US-Russia relations, she said they are “very strained,” but the US still hopes to mend ties.
On Saturday, Haley said that the US’ guns are “locked and loaded,” and that Washington will not hesitate to strike if a chemical attack in Syria takes place again.
Over the weekend, Trump himself contradicted his own March 29 statement, when he made it clear he wants to withdraw the roughly 2,000 U.S. troops in Syria involved in the anti-Islamic State campaign. But he appeared to refute that message when he said on Saturday that Western allies were prepared to “sustain” the military response if Syrian President Bashar al-Assad does not stop using prohibited chemical weapons.
Meanwhile, assuring that relations with Russia deteriorate even more – coincidentally, just as the Mueller probe of Russian collusion peaks – Haley also said that on Monday US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin will announce more Russian sanctions on Monday, which are supposedly set to address chemical equipment used by Assad.
Moscow has yet to retaliate to the US sanctions against several Russian billionaire oligarchs who are generally close to Vlarimir Putin, including aluminum magnate Oleg Deripaska, whose aluminum production giant Rusal, has suddenly found itself without access to western sources of funding, and the resulting solvency concerns have sent aluminum prices soaring.