Amid rising concern over tensions with Russia and Iran following a series of U.S. airstrikes against the Assad regime, Donald Trump has confirmed that the United States will not be conducting a full-scale invasion of Syria.
However, Trump described Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad as a “butcher” and a “barbarian,” after allegations that he used chemical sarin gas to slaughter his own people.
“Our big mission is getting rid of ISIS,” he said. “That’s where it’s always been. But when you see kids choking to death, you watch their lungs burning out, we had to hit him and hit him hard.”
Last Thursday, Trump ordered a series of missile strikes against Syrian regime airbases in response to the chemical attack, which a Pentagon spokesperson said were “intended to deter the regime from using chemical weapons again.”
Asked about his decision to personally order the airstrikes, Trump said that it had been “very tough to give that final go ahead when you know you’re talking about human life.”
“We went back and forth and also back and forth about severity. We could have gone bigger in terms of targets and more of them, but we thought this would be the appropriate first shot,” he continued.
The comments are likely to ease tensions across the international community, after Russia and Iran released a joint statement warning the U.S. that they will “respond with force” if they believe their own “red lines” are crossed in Syria.
A Gallup poll released on Tuesday revealed that public support for the airstrikes is comparatively low against previous wars such as the invasion of Iraq. However, Americans overwhelmingly approve of military action in Iraq and Syria with the aim of defeating the Islamic State.
This week, Russian officials confirmed that Vladimir Putin will not be meeting Secretary of State Rex Tillerson when he visits Moscow later this week, despite Putin awarding Tillerson a Russian Order of Friendship award in 2013.