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It’s Time For Assad To Go

Nikki Haley on Syria

Perhaps it was the heart-wrenching photos of babies gasping for their last breath of air that finally settled the weight of the presidency squarely on Donald Trump’s shoulders.

With those gruesome images of innocent children being gassed, we are reminded, once again, of the horrors that occur in Syria every day.

And we wonder why so many Syrian refugees are risking life and limb to escape their own country?

In his press conference with Jordan’s King Abdullah on Wednesday, President Trump called the gassing a terrible affront to humanity.

Ambassador Nikki Haley expressed outrage, claiming the U.S. would act alone if the United Nations did not approve a robust response to this latest attack.

President Trump was quick to blame his predecessor for “leaving the Syrian situation in a mess.”

It is true President Obama was vexed by this same intractable problem when Bashar al-Assad gassed his own people in 2013.

So, Obama drew a line in the sand with Syria, but he could not get his number one ally, Great Britain, or his own Congress to go along with any military action.

Vladimir Putin entered the scene and helped broker a deal with Syria to remove its chemical weapons.

This deal boosted Putin’s image on the world stage and made Russia an essential player in the region.

This week, it was very clear that this agreement to remove all chemical weapons from Syria had failed and Assad was gassing his people once again.

Despite Team Trump’s condemnation and tough talk, it was not clear exactly what Trump might do until the evening of Thursday, April 6.

So it seems that on that night, while dining at Mar-A-Lago with house guests Chinese President Xi Jinping and Madame Peng, the Commander-in-Chief had already authorized an attack on Al-Shayrat airfield, where Assad presumably had launched his deadly nerve gas attacks on his own people, and that the U.S. attack was well under way during the dinner.

President Trump authorized this attack apparently without prior approval from Congress, although some congressional and foreign leaders were notified just as the first of 59 Tomahawk missiles were impacting their targets.

Secretary of State Tillerson, Defense Secretary Mattis, and NSC officials made some of those calls, while President Trump informed President Xi as their dinner concluded.

Trump apparently warned Russia before the launch in an attempt to avoid any harm to Russian citizens and an unwanted direct conflict with Russia.

The morning after, the U.S. received support from some and recriminations and condemnation from others.

At home, some questioned whether this bold military action was a true change of heart for this new “America First” president or a move designed in part to satisfy more political motives.

The magnitude of this shift in policy has clearly changed the topics of the day from the Nunes recusal, silly tweets, and Russian connections, to a potential opportunity to boost his polls numbers and even win over some new fans from both the right and left sides of the aisle.

Some U.S. allies also came through with support for this action and called it an appropriate response to the use of chemical weapons of mass destruction.

French President François Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel said in a joint statement that they were given prior notice of the U.S. operation.

In that joint statement they said, “Assad is entirely responsible for the development of the situation. His constant use of chemical weapons and his massive crimes must not go unpunished.

France and Germany will continue their efforts, along with their partners, throughout the United Nations framework in order to punish in the most appropriate way the criminal acts related to the use of chemical weapons, that are prohibited by all treaties.”

The British, who did not support President Obama’s intended military actions in 2013, now seem to lend their support to this action by President Trump.

“We fully support what the Americans have done,” UK Defence Secretary Michael Fallon told the BBC, adding that the strike was “limited and wholly appropriate.”

And, of course, Russia, Syria, Iran, and China – awkward dinner conversation, perhaps – were poised to deliver their condemnations.

Immediately after the attack, both Putin’s Russia and the Assad Regime were quick to deny what we all saw actually took place – calling all of this “fake news.” Sound familiar?

At the moment, the jury is still out on whether Russia assisted the Syrians with the gas attack.

Russia is suspending a communications channel with the United States, set up to avoid midair incidents between Russian and U.S. pilots in the skies over Syria.

“Russia suspends the Memorandum of Understanding on Prevention of Flight Safety Incidents in the course of operations in Syria signed with the U.S.,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement Friday.

Russia also announced that it will help Syria strengthen its air defenses.

It also appears that the Russians may have prepared the Syrians for the attack by tipping them off well in advance – possibly limiting some of the intended damage.

Although the U.S. launched 59 Tomahawk missiles, which, supposedly, hit their intended targets, it is not clear how much permanent damage was done, since Syrian aircraft were sighted taking off from that base today.

There are very few easy military options in this area with fighters jets from the U.S., its allies, Israel, Syria, and Russia all potentially flying in same air space – wingtip to wingtip!

Everyone has know for a long time that resolving this situation will require a political solution, not a military one.

U.S. Secretary of State Tillerson still intends to go to Moscow on Tuesday to meet with his counterpart, Sergey Lavrov. These two will certainly have plenty to talk about.

So, what exactly is the endgame for Bashar al-Assad?

Clearly, he will not end up in a lovely villa somewhere in the South of France – like any proper deposed potentate.

And just what will Vladimir Putin allow the U.S. and its allies to do to rid Syria of this evil dictator?

With the questions of Russian influence on the Trump administration still unresolved, just how willing will they be to take a hard line with Vladimir’s ‘Putintate’ Assad?

We know that President Trump is willing to launch attacks on a sovereign nation.

We also know that, in some circles, he is seen as a hero.

In Syria, where the world’s most powerful players are engaged in a proxy power struggle where one wrong move could have catastrophic consequences for humanity, what is really needed are top notch diplomatic skills to diffuse this powder keg.

So it seems this will be the first real test of his diplomatic skills on the world stage for America’s Deal Maker-in-Chief.

Can President Donald J. Trump convince President Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin that it is now time for Assad to go?

 

Jon-Christopher Bua is a White House Correspondent and Political Analyst appearing on-camera and radio via Talk Media News.  Twitter: @JCBua

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About the author

Jon-Christopher Bua

Jon-Christopher Bua is a White House Correspondent and Political Analyst appearing on-camera and radio via Talk Media News. 

He offers his U.S. and Global political analysis on BBC TV, BBC World Service, Euronews, WTOP, C-SPAN, Al Jazeera English, 'NewsOne Now' with Roland Martin, LBC 97.3 Radio London, Channel 5 UK, ABC Australia, STV Scotland Tonight and via HuffPostUK Blogs.

A former Adjunct Professor at Georgetown University School of Foreign Service; is now teaching the course "Politics & The Media: An American-Global Perspective; at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.

During the Bill Clinton Administration, Jon-Christopher was Communications Director at two Federal Agencies - The Small Business Administration and The Office of Personnel Management and Managing Director for Intergovernmental and Public Affairs at The Overseas Private Investment Corporation. He also ran several Communications and Outreach operations at the Democratic National Committee and in both Clinton-Gore '92 & '96 Campaigns.

Jon-Christopher is a Speaker and Media Trainer and moderates, organizes and participates in political roundtables and symposia worldwide.

Jon-Christopher Bua on Twitter: @JCBua