The United States appears to be changing its focus in Syria from simply defeating ISIS and leaving, to staying indefinitely and ensuring that Iran and its proxies also leave the civil war-torn nation, according to senior State Department officials, The Washington Post reported  Thursday.
Though President Donald Trump has, in the past, said that he wanted U.S. troops “to get out” of Syria and come home, State Department officials told the Post that the U.S. was prepared to maintain troops in Syria until it accomplished its diplomatic goals.
James Jeffery, a former State Department official who returned to government service to serve as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s “representative for Syria engagement,” said that the “new policy is we’re no longer pulling out by the end of the year.”
The U.S., according to Jeffrey, will maintain a military presence in Syria until Iran and its proxies have all departed and that the U.S. and its allies achieved an “enduring defeat” of ISIS.
Jeffrey added that Trump had approved what he called a “more active approach” to Syria.
The U.S. is prepared to engage in a diplomatic effort involving the United Nations, as well as using economic leverage, including possible sanctions against Russia and Iran to achieve its goals.
According to the Post, Jeffrey and retired U.S. Army Col. Joel Rayburn were brought in by the administration to help develop a more coherent policy in Syria. The administration is seeking to avoid a repeat of Iraq, “where a precipitous U.S. pullout left the field open for Iran, and for a resurgence of Sunni militants that gave birth to the Islamic State.”
Jeffrey appears to be looking to implement one of the priorities articulated  by Pompeo in a May speech, in which he called for Iran’s departure from Syria.
The refocus of U.S. goals in Syria comes at a time when the Assad government, backed by its allies Russia and Iran, is preparing an all-out assault on the Idlib province, with a reported 70,000 rebels and 2,000,000 civilians, many of whom were forcibly relocated from other locations.
Trump threatened that if Assad and his allies carry out a “slaughter,” the U.S. “is going to get very angry.” Both Pompeo, and National Security Adviser John Bolton have conveyed similar warnings to their Russian counterparts.
Jeffrey said that the U.S. is using “new language” and would not tolerate “an attack. Period.” The statement suggested that the U.S. would respond to any attack by Syria and its allies, and not just chemical attacks as it had done in the past.
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