Donald Trump has said he is not sending US troops to Syria to fight the government of President Bashar al-Assad, insisting that defeating ISIS remains Washington’s number one priority.
“We’re not going into Syria. Our policy is the same — it hasn’t changed” Trump told Fox News.
“Are we going to get involved in Syria? No,” Trump said during an interview on FOX Business.
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“But if I see them using gas…. when you drop gas or bombs or barrel bombs — massive barrels with dynamite — and drop it right in the middle of a group of people … you see kids with no arms, no legs, no face. This [Syrian President Bashar Assad] is an animal,” he added.
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The hashtag “Assad is an animal” has been trending on social media networks worldwide since Trump’s comment.
Press TV reports:
“Our big mission is getting rid of ISIS (ISIL),” Trump said. “That’s where it’s always been. But when you see kids choking to death, you watch their lungs burning out, we had to hit him (Assad) and hit him hard.”
Claiming that the US attack was “an act of humanity,” Trump said he reflected a lot on the severity of the strike and came to the conclusion that “this would be the appropriate first shot.”
The new Republican president then focused on Russia, which has been running an aerial campaign against terrorist positions across Syria in coordination with Damascus.
“We’re not exactly on the same wavelength with Russia, to put it mildly,” Trump said, asking Russian President Vladimir Putin to reconsider his ties with Assad.
The West has been pressuring Russia to withdraw its support for Syria. Both the UK and the US have proposed more sanctions against Putin’s government in case the support continues.
Russia, however, has condemned the US attack, warning that Washington was making the same mistakes it made before invading Iraq in 2003.
Putin said afterwards that the strike had seriously hurt the Russo-American ties.
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told his visiting American counterpart Rex Tillerson in Moscow on Wednesday that the US should never repeat the “unlawful attack against Syria.”