White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer has told reporters that future strikes against Syria are possible. This is the same Sean Spicer who less than a week ago said that the idea of regime change in Syria was ‘silly’.
“The sight of people being gassed and blown away by barrel bombs ensures that if we see this kind of action again, we hold open the possibility of future action”.
This is yet again another confused sign from a very confused administration as just yesterday both Rex Tillerson and General H.R. McMaster did their damage control rounds on the US Sunday interview circuit, each inferring that regime change is back off the table, this was especially true in respect of Tillerson.
Beyond the facade of totally contradictory rhetoric from various US officials, there seems to be a private battle transpiring between neo-cons who favour ‘shock and awe’ style regime change war in Syria and others who favour the approach that Ronald Reagan took in Libya in 1986 after a day of largely ineffective bombing. Their goal is for the illegal missile launch to be a one-off attack that will allow them declare victory and call it quits, as Reagan did on the 15th of April 1986.
Until this internal crisis is resolved, it is unlikely that further clarity will be possible from the Trump administration. What happens next is anyone’s guess, seemingly including those working for the White House.
One theory that ought to be explored but rapidly dismissed is that the White House is intentionally sending mixed signals out in order to confuse Russia, Syria and Iran.
Needless to say, Russia, Syria and Iran are not waiting for public signals from the US government, nor do they care much for the propaganda of the US mainstream media.
Russia, Iran and indeed Syria will look for actual developments on the ground in addition to private communications with US diplomats (in the case of Russia certainly) and possibly Trump himself, should it ever come to that.
Russia in particular has a lack of interest in what the US says in public, for domestic consumption. Moscow is only concerned with what the US does. As soon as this is properly understood, it makes the theory that the fake document threatening retaliation from Russia, Iran, Syria and Hezbollah was somehow leaked by design in order to test the US, appear totally laughable.
The US knows what Russia is capable of militarily and Russia understands the US often better than the US seems to understand itself. Russia’s position will likely not shift unless events shift dramatically. In this sense, the ball is in the court of US actions, not words.
Until then, to paraphrase the Bee Gees, ‘it’s only words and words are all Trump has to take the war away’.