Stakes Are Heightened as Tillerson Arrives in Moscow

A prophecy against Damascus: “See, Damascus will no longer be a city but will become a heap of ruins.”

– Isaiah 17:1

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, pictured earlier this month, said Russia has failed in its commitment to guarantee a Syria free of chemical weapons. PHOTO: JOE RAEDLE/GETTY IMAGES

 

Secretary of State issues a stern warning to Russia

MOSCOW—Secretary of State Rex Tillerson arrived in Moscow on Tuesday to face what might be his toughest test yet as chief diplomat as he seeks to convince Russia to back away from its support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

The visit, Mr. Tillerson’s first as secretary of State, comes as hopes for a broader U.S.-Russian rapprochement have dimmed and as ties between the two former Cold War foes have further soured over President Donald Trump’s decision last week to strike a Syrian air base in response to Mr. Assad’s suspected deadly chemical weapons attack on April 4.

He arrived Tuesday following a two-day stop in Italy for a meeting with top officials Group of 7 member countries—the U.S., U.K., France, Germany, Italy, Canada and Japan. Before leaving Italy, he issued a new U.S. demand for the eventual removal of Mr. Assad, who is blamed by the U.S. and West for the long-running civil war in Syria.

It is clear to all of us that the reign of the Assad family is coming to an end,” Mr. Tillerson told reporters following a two-day meeting of foreign ministers.

U.S. officials said the strike and renewed pressure from the international community could help Mr. Tillerson make his case to Russia.

“The most important factor for Putin is not loyalty to Assad, but stability of the Syrian regime, which enables Russia to hold a significant geopolitical position in the Middle East. He could conceivably achieve that in a post-Assad scenario. So there is room for negotiation on that point,” said Matthew Rojansky, a Russia expert at the Wilson Center in Washington.

Administration officials have sent mixed signals on Syria policy in recent days. Mr. Tillerson and others have repeated that the U.S.’s first priority is fighting Islamic State. But the White House on Monday left open the possibility of further strikes against Mr. Assad if he uses chemical weapons or barrel bombs.

Full article: Stakes Are Heightened as Tillerson Arrives in Moscow (Wall Street Journal)

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