World

Trump says he wanted to kill Syrian strongman Assad but was stopped

WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump said on Tuesday he wanted to assassinate Syrian strongman Bashar Al-Assad in 2017, but that his then-Secretary of Defence Jim Mattis opposed the operation.

"I would have rather taken him out. I had him all set," Mr Trump told the morning show Fox & Friends.

"Mattis didn't want to do it. Mattis was a highly overrated general, and I let him go."

The revelations support reporting that came out in 2018 when Washington Post journalist Bob Woodward published his book Fear: Trump in the White House and which the president denied at the time.

"That was never even contemplated," Mr Trump told reporters in the Oval Office on September 5, 2018.

Mr Trump's Tuesday remarks came as part of a castigation against Mr Mattis, whom the president had hailed as a "great man" when he hired him to run the Pentagon. But he soured on the retired general who resigned in late 2018.

Mr Trump was reportedly mulling assassinating Mr Assad after the Syrian president launched a chemical attack on civilians in April 2017.

The US leader said American forces should "go in" and "kill" Mr Assad, Mr Woodward reported in his book.

The journalist - famous for uncovering the 1970s Watergate scandal that brought down president Richard Nixon - wrote that Mr Mattis told Mr Trump he would "get right on it" but returned with plans for a more limited airstrike.

Mr Trump told Fox he did not regret the decision not to target Mr Assad, saying he "could have lived either way with that".

"I considered him certainly not a good person, but I had a shot to take him out if I wanted and Mattis was against it," Mr Trump said.

"Mattis was against most of that stuff." - AFP

WORLD