WASHINGTON, July 26, (Agencies): US President Donald Trump accused Syria’s leader Bashar al-Assad on Tuesday of committing “horrible” crimes against humanity and vowed to prevent his regime from carrying out any more chemical attacks.
Speaking at a White House press conference with Lebanon’s Prime Minister Saad Hariri, Trump also called the Lebanese Shiite militia Hezbollah a threat to the entire Middle East.
Trump pledged continued US military aid to Lebanon following his Oval Office meeting with Hariri.
“I’m not a fan of Assad. I certainly think that what he’s done to that country and to humanity is horrible,” Trump said.
Recalling that he had ordered cruise missile strikes on Assad for using chemical weapons, Trump said: “I am not somebody that will stand by and let him get away with what he tried to do.”
Trump also claimed Syria would be different today had his predecessor Barack Obama taken action against Assad after drawing a “red line in the sand” over his regime’s use of chemical weapons.
“Had president Obama gone across that line and done what he should have done, I don’t believe you’d have Russia, and I don’t believe you’d have Iran, anywhere near the extent and maybe not at all, in Syria today,” he said.
Trump accused Iran and Hezbollah, which the United States considers a “foreign terrorist organization,” of fueling the humanitarian disaster in Syria. “Hezbollah is a menace to the Lebanese state, the Lebanese people and the entire region,” he said.
“The group continues to increase its military arsenal which threatens to start yet another conflict with Israel,” Trump said. “With the support of Iran, the organization is also fueling humanitarian catastrophe in Syria.”
Hezbollah’s “true interests are those of itself and its sponsor, Iran,” he added.
Trump demurred when asked to comment on possible additional sanctions against Hezbollah.
“I’ll be making my position very clear over the next 24 hours,” he said. “I have meetings with some of my very expert military representatives and others, so I’ll be making that decision very shortly.”
The current draft State Department budget calls for cuts in US military assistance and analysts say Lebanon could be among the countries affected.
Meanwhile, Trump said Tuesday that supporting Syrian refugees as close to their home as possible is the best way to help them.
Trump commented during an appearance with Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, whose country is burdened by an influx of refugees fleeing the civil war in Syria and who is counting on continued US assistance to help manage that burden.
During Hariri’s first visit to the Trump White House, the leaders also pledged continued solidary against terrorism from the Islamic State group and other militant groups.
“Our approach supporting the humanitarian needs of displaced Syrian citizens as close to their home country as possible is the best way to help most people,” said Trump, standing alongside Hariri in the Rose Garden after their talks.
The United States will give Lebanon an extra $140 million to help Syrian refugees and the communities hosting them, the State Department said during a US state visit by Lebanon’s Prime Minister.
Lebanon is hosting at least 1.5 million Syrian refugees who have fled the more than six-year conflict there and who now make up about a quarter of the country’s population.
The latest grant means the United States has given Lebanon more than $1.5 billion in humanitarian assistance since the start of the conflict in 2012, the State Department said.
In its 2017-2020 Crisis Response Plan, the Lebanese government said it needed $2.8 billion to address the challenges of hosting refugees.