Marco Rubio: WH Must Base Plans on 'Reality,' Not Assumptions

Morell said, however, that the US likely did not deter the Syrian president from "continuing the war against his own people using conventional weapons".

Asked about the idea of further American intervention in Syria as Syrian president Bashar al-Assad continues to act in ways the Trump administration has deemed "morally reprehensible," Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told "Face the Nation" moderator John Dickerson that, "we believe that the first priority is the defeat of ISIS".

Mr Tillerson stopped short of accusing the Russians of complicity in a suspected sarin nerve gas attack April 4 that killed at least 87 civilians in Syria's southern Idlib province. On Thursday night, President Trump called on all civilized nations to end the slaughter in Syria and you said the United States has begun to organize a coalition to remove Assad, so in the wake of Thursday's strike, can you explain the United States' strategy to remove Assad?

If Syria carries out more chemical attacks, he said, "that is going to be clearly very damaging to US-Russian relations".

Tillerson conceded that removing Assad from power could "ultimately" require greater pressure, including military action, from the US or an worldwide coalition, but he said that isn't the preferred choice.

"There seems to be a difference between what Ambassador Haley is saying, as she said last night, that Assad really has no future, and what I heard this morning from Secretary Tillerson", Rubio said. "We have to learn the lessons of the past and learn the lessons of what went wrong in Libya when you choose that pathway of regime change". "I don't think it's a coincidence that a few days later we see this", Rubio said.

"The Russians were never targeted in this particular strike", Tillerson said. "Other than that, there is no change to our military posture", he said.

Pressing Lavrov on Russia's failure to eliminate Syria's chemical weapons stockpile is likely to be part of the agenda.

The former ExxonMobil chief executive noted that holding such talks would require the participation of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime along with its allies.

Haley also addressed reports that there were mixed diplomatic signals sent about the US position toward Assad's role in Syria. The move is significant as this is the first time the United States has directly attacked the Assad regime.

Tillerson appeared to echo President Donald Trump's previous opposition to pursuing regime change, telling ABC that there was no change in USA policy from last month.

  • Zachary Reyes