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David R. Henderson

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Rex Tillerson at Hoover


On Wednesday morning last week, I, as a research fellow with the Hoover Institution, got to attend a speech by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. It was followed by a Q&A session with former Secretary of State and my Hoover colleague Condoleezza Rice. Unfortunately, questions from the audience were not allowed. The talk was about the Trump administration’s policy on Syria. The State Department has already released a 
transcript of his speech.

After the first few minutes of niceties, Tillerson got to his main topic: Syria. He listed many of the ways that Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad is bad, the main one being killing many of his own people. I thought Tillerson would then go to say what U.S. policy on Syria would be. But he didn’t do so immediately.

Instead, he segued to ISIS. You can read his comments for yourself, but here are three relevant segments.
The civil war in Syria was horrific in and of itself. But Syria was thrown into an even greater state of turmoil with the emergence of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS. This was an aspiring terror-state inside the borders of Iraq and Syria. The conflict between the regime and various opposition groups fighting to change Assad’s grip on power created the conditions for the rapid expansion of ISIS in 2013 and 2014. ISIS originally emerged from the ashes of al-Qaida in Iraq, a group Assad had covertly backed. Evidence suggests Assad also abetted ISIS by releasing known terrorists from Syrian prisons and turning a blind eye to ISIS’s growth. ISIS exploited the instability and lack of centralized authority in Syria to set up what it falsely claimed was a "caliphate," with the Syrian city of Raqqa as its capital.
read on...