President Assad has led a charmed life. He would probably have been overthrown but the Russians and the Iranians saw to it that he remained in the saddle. At one time during the Obama years removing Assad from power was one of the goals of the US administration. There seems to be a change now as the US ambassador to the UN Nickey Haley has said. In a talk to reporters she commented, its "You pick and choose your battles, and when we're looking at this, It's about changing up priorities and our priority is no longer to sit on and focus on getting Assad out." Later a clarification was issued.

A spokesperson said that Assad was not a legitimate ruler, but he is no longer the main concern of the USA.

Fighting ISIS

This marks a sea change in American policy which for years had centered on the removal of Assad. In fact, Tillerson the secretary of state while on a visit to Turkey, said that the future of Assad will be decided by the Syrian people. This is the language the Russians have been using for years and shows that there is a perceptible shift in American policy. The Americans want a solution and a concerted effort to fight the ISIS. This is perhaps a sop to the Russians whose cooperation is needed for an assault on the ISIS in Syria.

Perceptible change in US policy

The change in US policy is clear.

When Barak Obama was president such talk was anathema, as one of the primary aims of US policy in the Middle East was the removal of Assad. With Trump in power, the emphasis has shifted to fighting ISIS and Assad is put on the back burner. Tillerson is due in Moscow next month and it will be interesting to watch how he handles the visit.

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During the campaign trail, Donald had many times called for cooperation with Russia to fight ISIS.

Future

As things stand US forces backed by Kurds are closing in on the ISIS stronghold of Raqqa. The Russians are also nearby and at a meeting, the two militaries have agreed to try and respect each other spheres of influence.Syria and Iraq are the strongholds of ISIS and taking cities under their control is not going to defeat ISIS which has global tentacles.

Unfortunately for Trump he is greatly handicapped and cannot make any overtures as a Russian phobia sweeps the US. His biggest opponents are the military generals in his cabinet and the Pentagon which, fed on a diet of "Russia is the enemy," cannot think of anything else.