US President Donald Trump has ruled out sending American troops to Syria to fight the government of President Bashar al-Assad, insisting that defeating Daesh (ISIL) remains Washington’s first priority.
“We’re not going into Syria. Our policy is the same — it hasn’t changed. We’re not going into Syria,” Trump told Fox News on Tuesday.
The comments are expected to clear the air amid speculations that last week’s US missile attack against a Syrian airfield was the stepping stone for a major invasion.
Two US Navy destroyers fired 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles from the Mediterranean Sea at al-Shayrat airbase in Homs province in western Syria on April 7. Trump said the attack was in response for an alleged chemical attack that killed over 80 people in Syria last week.
The military action, coupled with American officials’ change of tone over Assad’s future, stirred speculation that the US and its Western allies were ready to place boots on the ground in Syria.
“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.”
The US has already sent several hundred of its special operation forces to Syria under what it claims is a training mission with Kurdish fighters. The US and its allies have also been carrying out airstrikes against purported Daesh positions in Syria since 2014, without permission from Damascus.
Source: Press TV