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US Shifts Stances on Syria: Assad’s Overthrow No Longer Priority | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer holds the daily press briefing at the White House in Washington, U.S. March 29, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

Beirut, Washington – Amid rising confusion and sudden shuffling of cards which struck the entire spectrum of stakeholders in the Syria crisis, the United States under Donald Trump’s administration reaffirmed that the president is less concerned with long-time despot Bashar al-Assad leaving power.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and US ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley on Thursday drew criticism for playing down a long-standing US goal of persuading Assad to leave power to help end the six-year Syrian conflict.

In Ankara on Thursday, Tillerson said Assad’s future is up to the Syrian people to decide, while Haley said “our priority is no longer to sit there and focus on getting Assad out.”

At his daily news briefing, White House spokesman Sean Spicer said that regarding Assad: “There is a political reality that we have to accept in terms of where we are right now.”

Spicer blamed the inability of Trump’s predecessor, Democrat Barack Obama, to persuade Assad to step down.

The United States’ diplomatic policy on Syria for now is no longer focused on making the war-torn country’s regime head, Assad, leave power, the US ambassador to the UN said, in a departure from the Obama administration’s initial and public stance on his fate.

The Obama administration, in its later years, was focused on reaching a deal with Russia that would eventually see Assad go, though it also shifted its focus to the fight against ultra-hardline ISIS militants, who captured swathes of territory in Iraq and Syria in 2014.

On that note, Israel –another key power in the region—seems ever more relaxed with US policy in the Middle East, particularly on fighting and curbing Iran’s expansionist agenda and growing influence.

Israeli ambassador to Russia, Gary Koren said that Tel Aviv is fully prepared to lead a military campaign against Iranian proxy “Hezbollah” in Syria should it detect any threat against its security. Koren, speaking at a Russian presser, said that the Tehran regime has long backed “Hezbollah” and other Shi’ite militias in Syria, exploiting them to threaten Israel.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that Israel would continue its efforts in preventing attempts to arm “Hezbollah”, the Lebanon-based Shi’ite militant group that supports the Syrian regime.