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Another blow for Syrian opposition as Trump reshuffles Middle East advisers

Derek Harvey will be shifted from his role as a Middle East adviser [AFP]

Date of publication: 28 July, 2017

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A key figure in Donald Trump's decision to strike Syria following a chemical attack has been forced from his position as a key Middle East adviser to the president.
A key figure behind Donald Trump's decision to launch missile strikes on a Syrian regime airbase has been ousted as Middle East adviser, serving another blow for the anti-Assad opposition.

Derek Harvey, a former military intelligence officer, has been shifted from his role as Middle East adviser to a new undefined position in Trump's administration, US media have reported.

His removal from the National Security Council likely spells an imminent reshuffle of Trump's inner-circle and a shift in US foreign policy.

"General [H.R.] McMaster [NRA adviser] greatly appreciates Derek Harvey's service to his country as a career army officer, where he served his country bravely in the field and played a crucial role in the successful surge in Iraq, and also for his service on Capitol Hill and in the Trump administration," NSC Spokesman Michael Anton told The Washington Examiner in a statement.

"The administration is working with Colonel Harvey to identify positions in which his background and expertise can be best utilised."

Harvey is said to be the man who worked behind the scenes to convince Trump to bomb the Syrian regime al-Shayrat airbase in Homs province in April.

This followed a chemical attack on a Idlib village blamed on the Syrian regime, which left up to 100 civilians dead.

Harvey and other opponents of the Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad are said to have encouraged Trump to strike Syria as a message to Damascus that Washington would not tolerate the use of chemical weapons against civilians.

Trump is said to have listened to the advice of military and intelligence officials over his own pro-Moscow, inner-circle on the issue.

It marked a brief period where Trump's administration - which had previously backed regime ally Russia over the Syria opposition - appeared to take a tougher line on the Assad regime.

These hopes have recently been dashed as Trump backed Russia's vision for Syria and reiterrated that Washington's priority is the defeat of IS.

Russia's plan would ultimately stifle the rebels' fight against the regime and keep Bashar al-Assad in power.

Harvey is said to have opposed other recent decisions by the US such as officially ending the CIA support for rebels and the effective surrender of al-Tanf base in southern Syria after it was surrounded by pro-regime militias.

Harvey has been described as "obsessively" anti-Iran and urged Trump to take a tougher line against the Tehran regime.

Iran is helping prop up Assad with militias and money.

Analysts have put most recent regime victories have down to Iranian military support and Russian airstrikes.

Many who understood Harvey's abilities as a military adviser are aghast at the decision.

"Derek Harvey is one of the finest intel analysts that I've ever encountered, so I'm befuddled as to why he is being removed," retired army Gen. Jack Keane told NBC News.

The media outlet credited Harvey with being a key figure in rolling back gains by insurgents in Iraq and identifying al-Qaeda as a key threat to the US during its early days.

But he is also said to be close to right-wing, pro-Russia hawk Steve Bannon who was also dropped from the NSC.

Many believe that his removal is down to McMaster's desire to build a security advisery team he trusts. No replacement has been officially announced.

"McMaster wants his own guy," a senior White House official told Politico

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