Republican Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham
“For four long years, Aleppo has been at the center of the Assad regime’s war on the Syrian people,” the statement continued. “Together with its Russian and Iranian allies, the Assad regime has relentless targeted women and children, doctors and rescue workers, hospitals and bakeries, aid warehouses and humanitarian convoys.”
A Syrian man comforts a boy amid the rubble of buildings
President Barack Obama’s decision not to attack Assad after he crossed Obama’s so-called “red line” by using chemical weapons against Syrian civilians in August 2013 has been characterised as one of the most decisive moments of the war.
Diplomatic and strategic failure: Obama does not draw the line in Syria
Last week, US Secretary of State John Kerry admitted that not following through on the “red line” threat damaged the US’ credibility in the region.
The problem in the Middle East, and in particular in Syria, has been that the US has been diplomatically and strategically outmanoeuvred by the Russians. Now that the Trump administration is looking to “normalise” relations with Russia and possibly lift trade embargoes imposed over the invasion of the Crimea, it is likely that the already murky politics of the Middle East will become even murkier.
It also means that there will be little hope for decisive action by the US to rein in the murderous activities of President Bashar Hafez al-Assad and his Russian allies.
With the appointment of Exxon chairman Rex Tillerson, who has close oil industry connections with Russian President Vladimir Putin, as Secretary of State the chances of the US taking a strong stand against Russia in the Middle East are rapidly fading.
It is likely that appointments such as Tillerson’s will be continuing and festering sore for the Trump administration as there is the potential for a constant blurring of the boundaries between business and diplomatic interests.
The problem will be whether Tillerson can quarantine his role at the State Department from his interests and contacts in the oil industry, particularly those with the Russians.
The other problem is whether Trump actually cares.