Trump wanted to kill Bashar al-Assad in 2017 but Jim Mattis stood in his way: 'I'd have rather taken him out'
The president admitted the same on 'Fox & Friends' though he had denied at the time that any such plan was made, claimed Bob Woodward's previous book 'Fear'
President Donald Trump, who is in the middle of forging peace in the Middle East through facilitating conciliation between Israel and Arab states like the UAE and Bahrain, on Tuesday, September 15, said he had plans to eliminate Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad but former defense secretary Jim Mattis stood in his way.
The poll-bound president said this on ‘Fox & Friends’, giving credence to the claim made by veteran journalist Bob Woodward’s first book ‘Fear’ which was released two years ago. According to the book, Trump wanted to take out the Syrian leader after the latter used chemical weapons against his own people in April 2017. The president though had denied this claim then. Nearly 90 people, including women and children, died in what was suspected as a sarin nerve agent attack on the west Syrian town of Khan Sheikhoun, and Trump personally was said to be disgusted when he saw footage of the attack and wanted to strike the Syrian regime.
'Let's f***ing kill him!'
“I would have rather taken him out. I had him all set. Mattis didn't want to do it. Mattis was a highly overrated general. And I let him go,” the president said on Tuesday. According to Woodward’s book, Trump called Mattis to give the order and said: “Let's f***ing kill him! Let’s go in. Let’s kill the f***ing lot of them.” The former defense secretary, who left the White House in January 2019 over a deteriorating relationship with the president, agreed to the order but then asked his aides to plan a strike on the Syrian dictator’s resources in a “much more measured” way, according to the Watergate reporter. What followed was a limited airstrike by Tomahawk cruise missiles aimed at the Shayrat Airbase.
In 2018, Trump refused to admit that a plan was on to eliminate Assad, saying: “No, that was never even contemplated, nor would it be contemplated.”
In his talks on Tuesday, Trump, however, said he didn’t regret not killing the Syrian president in 2017. “I don’t regret that. I could have lived either way with that. You know I considered him certainly not a good person, but I had a shot to take him out if I wanted to, and Mattis was against it. Mattis was against most of that stuff,” he said.
2017 strikes came after Obama's refusal in 2013
The April 2017 strikes were the first time that the US had taken military action against Syria, something Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama refused to do, at least without a Congressional approval, in 2013 following yet another chemical attack in Ghouta in August the same year. Trump called the 2017 chemical attack an “affront to humanity” and the “attack on children” and “beautiful babies” had changed his attitude towards the Syrian government “very much”. He said Assad’s “heinous actions” were beyond tolerance and felt he had to intervene to protect the interests of national security.
A year after the limited strikes against Syria, Trump announced in April 2018 to carry out precision missile strikes against the Assad regime along with the British and French forces in retaliation for a chemical attack made against its own citizens in Douma. It was a contradictory move as Trump said a week before his action that he wanted the US to withdraw its forces from the violence-ravaged nation. He changed his stand following a suspected chemical attack by the Syrian forces on the rebels to warn missile strikes.
Trump slammed Mattis during the Tuesday talk with ‘Fox & Friends’ hosts, calling him a “terrible general” and a “bad leader”. “And he wasn't doing the job with ISIS. He was not doing the job with Syria or Iraq with respect to ISIS. I got rid of ISIS after he was gone. I did a great job with ISIS, 100 per cent of the caliphate,” the president said, adding: “He would keep you in military, but he didn't know how to win. He had no concept as to win.”