WASHINGTON, Nov. 16 (UPI) — President-elect Donald Trump‘s statements about how he plans to change U.S. foreign policy with regards to Russia, the Middle East and the fight against the Islamic State has Syrian President Bashar al-Assad musing publicly about the United States shifting from a sometimes-helpful adversary to a “natural ally.”
Assad said in an interview that Trump’s intentions to narrow the U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East to the Islamic State, which has taken advantage of the Syrian civil war in an effort to overtake the country, will ease tensions between the two countries and allow the militant group to be defeated there.
President Barack Obama has taken a hard line against Assad for several years, calling him out for attacks against his own citizens and helping to arm rebels fighting to remove the Syrian president from power.
Assad said Trump’s win in the U.S. presidential election and expected realignment toward Russia’s position on ejecting the Islamic State, also known as ISIS, ISIL and Daesh,
“If — if — he fights the terrorists, it is clear that we will be a natural ally, together with the Russians, Iranians and many other countries who want to defeat the terrorists,” Assad said.
Assad said that, despite Trump’s thoughts and potential policies, the president-elect’s lack of a policy history because he has never served in public office, in addition to the demands of lobbyists and advisors, mean that he is optimistic but cautious about the newly-elected president of the United States.
“That’s why for us it’s still dubious whether he can do or live up to his promises or not,” Assad said in the interview. “That’s why we are very cautious in judging him.”
While the situation in Syria and its civil war is much more complicated than the Islamic State’s attempt to take Syria over — and may include ignoring other problem’s with Assad’s rule — Trump has said several times that he would stop working with some rebel groups opposed to Assad’s regime in order to focus on the Islamic State.
“My attitude was you’re fighting Syria, Syria is fighting ISIS, and you have to get rid of ISIS,” Trump said.