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Assad praises Trump as ‘most transparent president’ after Syria troop withdrawal

Leader denounces American's predecessors as 'group of criminals who only represent the interest of American lobbies of large corporations in weapons, oil and others'

Joe Sommerlad
Sunday 03 November 2019 16:18 GMT
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Syrian president Bashar al-Assad praises Donald Trump's 'transparency'

Syrian president Bashar al-Assad has praised Donald Trump, saying the billionaire real estate magnate is the “best” US president he has dealt with “because he is the most transparent”.

“He’s the best American president,” Mr Assad told NBC News from Damascus. ”Not because his policies are good, but because he’s the most transparent president.”

Referring to Mr Trump’s predecessors in the White House, President Assad said: “All they are is a group of criminals who only represent the interest of American lobbies of large corporations in weapons, oil and others.”

“Trump speaks with transparency to say ‘we want the oil’. What do we want more than a transparent foe?” he asked.

The Syrian leader was speaking in the aftermath of President Trump’s controversial withdrawal of approximately 1,000 US troops from the north of the country, a decision that effectively greenlit a Turkish attack on the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), who had been America’s allies in the fight against Isis but who are considered a terrorist faction by Ankara.

Mr Trump insisted his decision was about drawing a line under America's “endless wars” in pursuit of regime change overseas but enacting it brought him into conflict with even outspoken Republican loyalists like South Carolina senator Lindsey Graham. The Kurdish fighters of the SDF were meanwhile forced to side with Mr Assad’s government forces to see off a Turkish invasion.

A ceasefire has since been agreed between the US government and Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, with Mr Trump threatening Turkey with heavy sanctions should the fighting resume.

“We’re keeping the oil – remember that,” President Trump said of the situation in Syria at a gathering of the International Association of Chiefs of Police in Chicago on Monday. “We want to keep the oil. $45m (£40.3m) a month? Keep the oil. We’ve secured the oil.”

However, some legal experts have cautioned that US efforts to safeguard the oil could be considered pillaging under the Geneva Convention and amount to a war crime.

“Trump makes no mention of who owns the oil, and that seems like a fairly key question,” James Graham Stewart, a law professor at the University of British Columbia, told NPR. “The second question is what exactly is Trump planning to do with the oil.”

Whether the president is talking about protecting Syrian oil for its rightful owners or taking it without their consent is a pivotal question, Professor Graham argued. “One would probably be more acceptable. The other would be a war crime.”

Assad himself meanwhile remains a pariah on the international stage. A report by the Global Public Policy Institute in February concluded that his administration had deployed at least 336 chemical weapons against its own people in the country’s ongoing civil war, and around half a million people have been killed in the ongoing civil war, with half the population of Syria displaced.

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