Trump Accepts ‘Reality’ of Assad’s Grip on Power

In FOREIGN RELATIONS, Military and War On

WASHINGTON — President Trump has abandoned the goal of pressing President Bashar al-Assad of Syria to leave power, marking a sharp departure from the Middle East policy that guided the Obama administration for more than five years, the White House said on Friday.

“With respect to Assad, there is a political reality that we have to accept,” said Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary.

Mr. Spicer suggested on Friday that much of the potential leverage over Mr. Assad was now gone, “since there is not the opposition that existed last time.” At the same time, he said, there is “a need to de-escalate violence and to have a political process through which Syrians will decide their own political future.”

Frederic C. Hof, director of the Middle East center at the Atlantic Council and an adviser on Syria to Mrs. Clinton when she was secretary of state, asserted that tough questions on Mr. Assad’s political fate could not be deferred forever.

“The implications of not trying diplomatically to neutralize Bashar al-Assad are serious,” he said. “The reason we have ISIS is because of Assad’s political survival strategy of using mass homicide. The point is not only to kill ISIS, but also to keep it dead. And you are not going to get there as long as Assad is in power.”

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