After the Trump administration and its allies struck back at the Assad regime in Syria on Friday, one of the first questions to arise is what the attack would mean for our involvement in the country’s bloody civil war.
After all, President Donald Trump has repeatedly said that he wants troops out of Syria at the earliest possible opportunity. Would the attack change that? Would we become mired in what could become a proxy war with Russia?
Well, if Trump’s remarks shortly after the attack are any indication, his plans for Syria do not appear to have changed.
During the speech, he promised that his administration had no designs on deepening U.S. commitment in Syria, despite the fact that we would continue to hold Bashar al-Assad accountable if he uses chemical weapons against his own people.
“The United States has also rebuilt our friendships across the Middle East,” the president said, according to The New York Times.
“We have asked our partners to take greater responsibility for securing their home region, including contributing large amounts of money for the resources, equipment and all of the anti-ISIS effort.
“Increased engagement from our friends, including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Egypt and others, can ensure that Iran does not profit from the eradication of ISIS,” he added
“America does not seek an indefinite presence in Syria, under no circumstances. As other nations step up their contributions, we look forward to the day when we can bring our warriors home — and great warriors they are. Looking around our very troubled world; Americans have no illusions. We cannot purge the world of evil or act everywhere there is tyranny.”
Trump’s remarks mirror those made by Defense Secretary James Mattis in testimony before Congress earlier this week, before the strike was conducted.
“Both the last administration and this one made very clear that our role in Syria is the defeat of ISIS,” Mattis told the House Armed Services Committee.
“We are not going to engage in the civil war itself. Now, you can look back to a year ago when we did fire missiles into Syria unrelated to ISIS, and that was, of course, the use of chemical weapons.
“And some things are simply inexcusable, beyond the pale, and in the worst interest of not just the chemical weapons convention, but of civilization itself.”
Mattis went on to tell the committee, “Our strategy remains the same as a year ago. It is to drive this to a U.N.-brokered peace, but at the same time, keep our foot on the neck of ISIS until we suffocate it.”
The defense secretary sounded a similar note after Friday’s airstrikes, telling reporters, “Right now, this is a one-time shot.”
While the operation certainly risked a possibility of getting the Russians riled up to the point of escalation — and their ambassador to the United States warned of “consequences” after the strike — nothing had happened as of Sunday morning.
The president has even gone as far as to tweet out “Mission Accomplished” in describing the airstrikes.
Whether or not that’s true in the bigger picture remains to be seen, but it looks like the administration has every intention of making our involvement as limited in Syria as it needs to be.
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