Trump wanted to assassinate Syrian president, former adviser claims

KT Macfarland, former deputy national security adviser, said Mr Trump wanted to attack Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad after seeing photos of Sarin gas attack on civilians

Josh Marcus
San Francisco
Monday 15 February 2021 02:19
Corbyn on Syria
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Donald Trump had to be talked down from ordering the assassination of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, according to a former adviser.

KT Macfarland, former deputy national security adviser, said that weeks after he took office in 2017, the former president insisted that he would “take him out” after seeing pictures of a Sarin gas attack on civilians.

The adviser made the revelation during an interview for the new BBC docuseries “Trump Takes on the World.”

“I said, ‘well Mr President, you can’t do that,’” said Ms Macfarland, a former defense official. “He said ‘why?’ And I said ‘well, that’s an act of war.’”

She added: “Trump glares at me, folding his hands in this serious Donald Trump way. I knew what he wanted to do was somehow punish Assad, and not let him get away with this.”

Ms Macfarland was ousted from her role only a few months later amid concerns about her partisanship, the New York Times reported. She is now a Fox News commentator.

Mr Trump would end up punishing Syria indirectly. Following an attack by Iranian proxies that killed a US security contractor in Iraq, a US drone targeted Iranian intelligence kingmaker Qassem Soleimani on 3 January 2020 in Baghdad. Soleimani was a key ally of Assad’s and is credited with helping him violently consolidate his hold on the country during its long civil war.

The BBC episode, which airs next week, reveals other insider details about the Trump administration’s foreign policy decisions.

According to Fiona Hill, who served on the national Security Council, Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan persuaded Mr Trump to withdraw troops from Syria during a phone call to his personal number, allowing Turkey, Russia, and Isis to gain more influence in the region.

Following the announcement in October 2019 that he was pulling troops out, the president quickly reversed course.

Former officials also shed light on the administration’s decision-making surrounding the Israel-Palestinian conflict.

Israeli president Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly convinced the president to sideline Palestinians and focus on uniting sympathetic Arab states against a common enemy in Iran.

“The prime minister did his best to convince President Trump that there was a real possibility of a strategic breakthrough with the Arab states,” Ron Dermer, Israeli ambassador to the US, told the BBC.

“When Israeli and Arab leaders are on the same page when it comes to Iran, people should pay attention.”

Palestinian leaders said the break in relations with the Trump administration had another reason: Jerusalem.

Husam Zomlot, head of Palestinian Liberation Organisation mission to US, told the BBC that the Trump administration reneged on a promise not to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to the disputed territory of Jerusalem, which some saw as an official endorsement of Israel’s claims to the city. 

“I just wanted to make sure right then that Jared knows if he does that, he will never see us again,” Mr Zomlot said.

“And that’s exactly the last sentence I said, ‘This will be the last meeting between us,’ and it was indeed the last meeting between us.”

The Trump administration helped normalise relations between the United Arab Emirates, Sudan, Morocco, Bahrain and Israel. Some in the region had previously resisted normalising ties with Israel in protest over its treatment of Palestinians.

But the Trump administration’s much-touted plans for peace between Israel and Palestinian failed to resolve the longstanding conflict.

Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas rejected the deal with a “thousands no’s” over what he argued were insufficient provisions for Palestinian sovereignty.

Representatives for Mr Trump did not respond to a request for comment from The Independent.

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