Britain’s Foreign Office will spend the next three months trying to convince senior figures in Donald Trump’s team not to prioritise fighting Islamic terrorists in Syria.
Since becoming president-elect Trump has reaffirmed his intention to cut support to Islamist rebels and instead concentrate on fighting Islamic State (ISIS), in what will be a marked shift in foreign policy.
The business magnate has previously conceded he would be willing to work with Russia to “knock the hell out of” the Islamist group, because of the global threat Islamic terrorism poses to the world.
But Trump’s views are highly contradictory to those of Theresa May, who last month called for Russia to be punished over its “sickening atrocities” in fighting Islamist rebels, many of whom are linked to al-Qaeda, in East Aleppo.
Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson is expected to fly to the US within weeks to meet with senior figures in Trump’s administration to steer their focus towards toppling Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Britain will spend the next three months before Trump enters the White House trying to convince the president-elect and his team that it’s essential Syria’s leader be removed from power, according to the Telegraph.
In his first interview with the Wall Street Journal, the property tycoon said his administration will prioritise defeating Islamic State rather than deposing Assad.
He told the business-focused newspaper: “I’ve had an opposite view of many people regarding Syria. My attitude was you’re fighting Syria, Syria is fighting ISIS, and you have to get rid of ISIS.”
Reiterating concerns he has voiced in the past over arming rebels, many of whom share ideology with ISIS-aligned jihadis, Trump echoed warnings he has made on the campaign trail, pointing out that a focus on ousting Assad puts America in danger of sparking World War Three.
Foreign Office officials say they believe it will be “very difficult” to convince the president-elect to change his foreign policy stance.
On the campaign trail in August Trump vowed that if he became president, “the era of nation building will be brought to a very swift and decisive end”. The Apprentice host has blamed the West’s backing of regime change for the rise of ISIS, saying that in 2009 Libya was stable, Syria was under control, and Egypt was ruled by a secular president.
After observing that Western interventions led to the destabilisation of the Middle East and the destruction of Libya, which led to millions of migrants entering Europe, Trump declared: “It is now time for a new approach.”