Politics

President Trump Says ‘No’ to Taxpayer Funding For Syria Reconstruction

The State Department will pull back funding it had allocated to rebuild parts of Syria once held by the Islamic State, saying Friday that other countries will now provide $230 million in planned spending, the Washington Times reported.

“The spending was frozen in March, after then-secretary of state Rex Tillerson was fired, as part of President Trump’s effort to hasten American withdrawal from Syria and turn more responsibility over to members of the U.S.-led coalition. The administration informed Congress on Friday that the money would be ‘redirected’ away from Syria to other, unspecified areas.

“Commitments from other countries already total $300 million, according to State Department officials, including $100 million announced this week by Saudi Arabia.”

“There is not going to be, by international agreement, reconstruction assistance to Syria unless the U.N. — not Moscow, not Washington, not any other capital, the U.N. — certifies, validates that a credible and irreversible political process is underway,” said David M. Satterfield, acting assistant secretary for the Middle East.

“That’s the door to getting what we believe the regime, the Russians, very much want, which is international money flowing into the wreckage that is presently Syria,” Satterfield defiantly stated.

The funding decision “represents the success of our . . . administration’s efforts to execute the president’s direction that we mobilize the international and regional support for the critical stabilization efforts in northeastern Syria,” said State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert. “This allows us to free up our tax dollars — U.S. tax dollars to use on other key foreign policy priorities.”

Nauert also said retired Army Col. Joel Rayburn had joined the State Department as deputy assistant secretary for Levant Affairs, and “special envoy for Syria.”

Rayburn’s primary focus will be to remove Iranian influence from Syria and the region, including, Nauert said, “our strong opposition to Hezbollah and the importance of a strong Lebanese government,” as well as “our strong bilateral ties with Jordan.”