"Assad must go" is back
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson issued a veiled threat to Moscow on Wednesday after he said that the Russians should "re-think" their support for Assad.
Tillerson's statement was made hours after US representative to the UN Nikki Haley claimed that Assad, Russia and Iran "have no interest in peace" and that the United States could act unilaterally in Syria if Russia continues to back Assad.
Tillerson's warning comes just a day after it was reported that the US has expanded a runway at a northern Syria air base to accommodate large C-17 military planes.
The US military claims that the airstrip near the Kurdish town of Kobane will be used in the assault on Raqqa. Well, we're sure that's one use for it:
"It's a very important logistical hub for the Raqqa operation," Thomas told AFP, in public comments confirming a story that first appeared in the Stars and Stripes military newspaper.
The C-17 can carry "all of the small armored technical vehicles and small armored infantry vehicles that are in play and authorized to move into the region," he added.
Moreover, "rebel" groups have told Al Jazeera that the CIA, which allegedly cut support for "moderate" groups back in February, is once again providing them with backing.
But along with money and guns they have also received new marching orders from the US. They are to join a new operations room that will be backed by US, Turkey, Arab gulf monarchies and Western Europeans. The rebels have said they "do not have much of a choice about joining the new operations room and that not doing so would mean a confrontation with the US".
This new operations room is being set up explicitly to fight the Syrian army. Earlier reports that it is being set up to fight al-Qaeda have been rebuked by the CIA-backed rebels.
Speaking to press at the White House yesterday, President Trump said that Assad had crossed "many lines". Responding to questions about what he will do about Assad's "war crimes", Trump vowed "I will have that responsibility and carry it very proudly."