President Trump tore into Syrian President Bashar Assad, calling him an “animal,” and scolded Russia for continuing to support the embattled Middle Eastern leader.
In a Fox Business interview published Wednesday, Trump was asked what message he’d like to see Secretary of State Rex Tillerson convey to Russian leaders on his current trip to Moscow.
“No. 1, you should have peace in Syria,” Trump told host Maria Bartiromo. “It’s enough.”
He then launched into a condemnation of Assad and seemed to blame Russia for propping up the Syrian president.
“Frankly, Putin is backing a person that’s truly an evil person, and I think it’s very bad for Russia, I think it’s very bad for mankind, it’s very bad for this world,” Trump began.
“But when you drop gas, or bombs, or barrel bombs — they have these massive barrels with dynamite, and they drop them right in the middle of a group of people — and in all fairness you see the same kids, no arms, no legs, no face. This is an animal.”
After a sarin gas attack killed more than 80 people, including children, in Syria last week, the Trump administration bombed a Syrian government airfield and has more forcefully spoken out in favor of removing Assad from power. This is a marked shift from their previous position, which was to focus on the so-called Islamic State amid the multifaceted Syrian civil war. Russia, the patron of the Assad regime, expressed skepticism that the strongman was behind the attack.
In a departure from Trump’s previous praise of Putin, the president seemed to blame Russia for Assad’s continued reign and argued that Russia would be responsible for brokering peace in Syria.
“And I really think that there’s going to be a lot of pressure on Russia to make sure that peace happens. Because, frankly, if Russia didn’t go in and back this animal, you wouldn’t have a problem right now. He was going to be overthrown. I thought he was gone. He had another week, I mean he was finished. He had nothing, nothing.
“And then Russia came in and saved him. And then Obama made one of the worst deals in history with the Iran deal, so you really have Iran and you have Russia and you have Assad.”
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