The US ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, who has done a remarkable job of continuing the diplomatic tone set by her predecessor Samantha Power, said in an interview on CNN’s “State of the Union” which will air in full on Sunday, that regime change in Syria as one of the Trump administration's top priorities in Syria. Her statement was a complete U-turn from what she said just over a week ago, when she told a group of reporters that the US was "no longer focused on getting Assad out."
In her CNN interview, Haley also said that defeating the Islamic State, pushing Iranian influence out of Syria, and the ouster of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad are top priorities for Washington.
"There's not any sort of option where a political solution is going to happen with Assad at the head of the regime," Haley told CNN anchor Jake Tapper. "If you look at his actions, if you look at the situation, it's going to be hard to see a government that's peaceful and stable with Assad."
"We don’t see a peaceful Syria with Assad in there," Haley added.
Haley's remarks come just a day after she warned that the United States was prepared to take further actions in Syria during a special session at the UN following a US military strike against a Syrian air base. "The United States took a very measured step last night," Haley said at the UN special session Friday. "We are prepared to do more. But we hope that will not be necessary. It is time for all civilized nations to stop the horrors that are taking place in Syria and demand a political solution."
Contrast this with what she said on March 30:
"You pick and choose your battles and when we're looking at this, it's about changing up priorities and our priority is no longer to sit there and focus on getting Assad out," Haley had told reporters on March 30, just days before dozens of Syrian civilians died from chemical weapons injuries.
Playing the "good cop", and appearing to take a more patient stance regarding Assad, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said on Saturday that Washington's first priority is the defeat of Islamic State. Once the threat from Islamic State has been reduced or eliminated, “I think we can turn our attention directly to stabilizing the situation in Syria,” Tillerson said in excerpts from an interview on CBS’s “Face the Nation,” that will air in full on Sunday.
Quoted by Reuters, Tillerson said the United States is hopeful it can help bring parties together to begin the process of hammering out a political solution. "If we can achieve ceasefires in zones of stabilization in Syria, then I believe - we hope we will have the conditions to begin a useful political process,” Tillerson said.
Speaking on ABC's This Week on Sunday, Tillerson took a similar conciliatory approach toward North Korea, saying that a regime change of the country's leader Kim Jong-Un is also not a US objective.
Tillerson said that while the U.S. wants a denuclearized Korean peninsula, it has “no objective to change the regime in North Korea." When asked about reports the US would consider killing Kim Jong Un, Tillerson said “I am aware of no such plans."
Meanwhile, the USS Vinson carrier group is currently en route toward the Korean peninsula.