Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said in an interview aired on Tuesday that Donald Trump will be a “natural ally” if the US president-elect fulfils his pledge to fight “terrorists”.
In his first reaction to Trump’s election victory last week, the Syrian president struck a note of caution and said he was unsure the American billionaire would be able to keep his word and step up the fight against militants.
“We cannot tell anything about what he’s going to do, but if… he is going to fight the terrorists, of course we are going to be ally, natural ally in that regard with the Russian, with the Iranian, with many other countries,” he told Portugal’s RTP state television.
Asked about Trump’s campaign comments suggesting the United States should focus more on fighting the Islamic State (IS) group, Assad said he would welcome such a move but was cautious.
“I would say this is promising, but can he deliver?” said Assad, who was speaking in English.
“Can he go in that regard? What about the countervailing forces within the administration, the mainstream media that were against him? How can he deal with it?” he said.
“That’s why for us it’s still dubious whether he can do or live up to his promises or not.
“That’s why we are very cautious in judging him, especially as he wasn’t in a political position before,” said Assad.
The United States leads an international coalition that is conducting air strikes against IS militants in Syria and neighbouring Iraq, and also backs rebels fighting the Assad regime.
Trump’s support for Assad
In an interview with The New York Times on 26 March, Trump said he thought “the approach of fighting Assad and ISIS (IS) simultaneously was madness, and idiocy”.
“You can’t be fighting two people that are fighting each other, and fighting them together. You have to pick one or the other,” said Trump.
And during campaigning, Trump also pledged to improve America’s ties with Assad’s main backer, Russia.
After his election victory, Trump told The Wall Street Journal: “I’ve had an opposite view of many people regarding Syria”.
He also said that if the United States attacks Assad “we end up fighting Russia”.