White House National Security Adviser Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster says that while the U.S. would push for regime change in Syria, “We’re not the ones who are going to effect that change.”
“What we’re saying is, other countries have to ask themselves some hard questions,” McMaster said in an interview on "Fox News Sunday." “Russia should ask themselves, ‘What are we doing here?’ Why are we supporting this murderous regime that is committing mass murder of its own population and using the most heinous weapons available?’”
McMaster characterized Thursday’s U.S. airstrike of a Syrian airfield as an opportunity for Russia to reevaluate its continued support for Syrian President Bashar Assad, adding that addressing both Assad’s actions and routing ISIS could be done simultaneously.
“I think, as you saw with the strike, that there has to be a degree of simultaneous activity as well as sequencing of the defeat of ISIS first,” McMaster said. “What you have in Syria is a very destructive cycle of violence, perpetuated by ISIS, obviously, but also by this regime and their Iranian and Russian sponsors.”
Asked about reports that Syria’s government began conducting bombings using the same base struck by the U.S. on Thursday, McMaster pushed back.
Eliminating operations from the airfield, was “not the objective,” he said. Rather, the U.S. Tomahawk missile strike was meant to be “a strong signal” to Syria not to use chemical weapons again.
U.S. goals in the region, McMaster said are “the defeat of ISIS,” and “a significant change in the nature of the Assad regime and its behavior in particular.”