WASHINGTON (CBSANewYork/AP) — Lawmakers say President Donald Trump needs to work with Congress on a “long-term” Syria strategy following last week’s U.S. missile strike.
Trump ordered the air strike in response to a chemical weapons attack the Syrian government carried out against a Syrian village, killing more than 80 civilians.
The top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee says Trump’s decision was a “reaction” to Syria’s use of chemical weapons. Sen. Ben Cardin of Maryland says the administration hasn’t been clear on next steps and whether it would escalate a U.S. response if Syrian President Bashar Assad continues his assault on rebel forces with conventional weapons.
The Senate’s No. 2 Republican, John Cornyn of Texas, says Trump’s move sends a strong message to rogue nations, and agrees that the U.S. needs a broader strategy.
Trump’s national security adviser H.R. McMaster described U.S. goals to defeat the Islamic State group as well as oust Assad as somewhat “simultaneous.”
McMaster said there is no contradiction between comments by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who says IS must be defeated first, and Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations who contends that getting Assad out is a priority.
McMaster says “there has to be a degree of simultaneous activity as well as sequencing of the defeat of IS first.”
He says Trump’s missile strike was meant as a “very strong signal to Assad and his sponsors” that the U.S. will not stand idly by, and that Russia should now reconsider support for the “murderous regime.”
Tillerson arrived at Pisa Military Airport in Italy late Sunday, greeted by Italian military leaders at the start of a trip where he will attend G-7 meetings and talk about the top international goal of the Trump administration.
“I think the president has been quite clear,” Tillerson said on CBS’ “Face the Nation” Sunday. I think the issue of how Bashar al-Assad’s leadership is sustained or how he departs is something that we will be working with allies and others in the coalition. But I think with each of those actions, he really undermines his own legitimacy.”
Haley appeared on CNN’s “State of the Union” and called the American airstrikes “one of the president’s finest hours.” She also indicated that Trump may now be on board with the idea of regime change in Syria.
“There’s no political solution that we see as the lead,” she said Sunday. “… not any sort of option where a political solution is going to happen with Assad at the head of the regime.”
Sen. Lindsay Graham on Sunday called for as many as 6,000 more U.S. troops to fight the Islamic State group.
The South Carolina Republican also wants additional penalties imposed on Russia for what he calls Moscow’s “aiding and abetting” Assad in the use of chemical weapons and for Russian meddling in the 2016 American election.
Graham told NBC’s “Meet the Press” that the additional troops would “attract more regional fighters to destroy” the militants. Graham isn’t saying where the Americans would be sent.
The Syrian opposition has reported that Assad’s forces have begun flying again from an air base struck last week by U.S. missiles.
(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)