The White House on Monday made clear it sees no way that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad can stay in power for the long term.
Sean Spicer, U.S. President Donald Trump’s spokesman, told reporters, “You can’t imagine a stable and peaceful Syria with Assad in charge. I don’t think that’s a scenario that’s possible.”
The White House press secretary said the U.S.’s main priority is defeating Islamic State fighters in Syria and then to “create an environment for a change in leadership.” He said one goal in ending the conflict, now in its seventh year, is to create a safe place for war weary Syrians to be able to remain in the country without having to flee the country for safe harbor.
Trump last week launched a missile attack on the air field U.S. officials believe Syria used as a base to assault rebels fighting the Assad regime with chemical weapons. Dozens were killed and hundreds more were sickened.
Spicer described Syria’s subsequent use of the field for takeoffs as “a PR stunt,” adding that the base’s radar, refueling facilities and more than 20 percent of Syria’s overall fleet of fixed wing aircraft were destroyed.
Spicer said the U.S. attack might not be the last.
“We hold open the possibility of future action,” he said. “I think not just Syria, but what the world saw last week was a president that is going to act decisively, and proportionally and with justification.”
He added, “If you gas a baby, if you put a barrel bomb in to [kill] innocent people, I think you will see a response from the president. That is unacceptable.”
He said Trump would “hold cards close to the vest, but make no mistake, he will act.”
Still, Spicer said the U.S. has no intention “to become the world’s policeman.”