US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson outlined on Wednesday Washington’s new strategy on Syria, which saw no room for regime head Bashar Assad and sought to counter Iran’s “malicious” influence in the war-torn country.
He accused Assad of killing his own people and therefore Washington would seek his removal through diplomatic means.
“Assad is corrupt and harboring a countless number of terrorist groups. He crossed red lines when he used chemical weapons” against civilians, he added during a speech at Stanford University.
The US official went on to say that Assad was responsible for the formation of the ISIS terror group, while acknowledging that the regime head has been bolstered by Iran and Russia.
The US will maintain military presence in Syria, focused on ensuring ISIS cannot re-emerge, he announced.
Furthermore, he remarked that a total withdrawal of American personnel would help Assad. US disengagement from Syria would also provide Iran "golden opportunity" to strengthen its position there.
Tillerson went on to say: "Reducing and expelling malicious Iranian influence from Syria depends on a democratic Syria."
To that end, Washington will “vigorously” support the UN Geneva process for a political solution and urge Russia to "put new levels of pressure" on the Syrian regime to credibly engage in the talks, stressed Tillerson.
The American administration’s new Syria strategy largely entails increased diplomatic action, characterized by stabilization initiatives and new emphasis on the political solution.
“It is crucial to US national interest to maintain military, diplomatic presence in Syria to help end in conflict there,” explained Tillerson.
“We will not allow Syria to become a launchpad for terrorists to threaten us or our allies,” he added, while announcing that Washington "hears and takes seriously" concerns of NATO ally Turkey on Syria.
On Syria’s reconstruction, he noted that it will take a “long time,” saying that the return of refugees to their homes hinges on the political solution.