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Syrian conflict

US open to joint military operations with Russia in Syria: Trump spokesman

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 24 January, 2017, 3:36am
UPDATED : Friday, 07 April, 2017, 11:45am

US President Donald Trump is open to conducting joint operations with Russia to combat the Islamic State group in Syria, his spokesman said Monday.

“If there’s a way we can combat ISIS with any country, whether it’s Russia or anyone else, and we have a shared national interest in that, sure, we’ll take it,” press secretary Sean Spicer told reporters when asked about the prospect of joint military action in Syria.

Spicer said the administration will work “with Russia or anyone else” to defeat the militant group, either militarily or economically.

The president has vowed to defeat IS “quickly” when he takes office, though he has not provided specifics on his plans for U.S. military efforts in Iraq and Syria.

On Monday the Russian Defense Ministry announced that it had carried out a joint airstrike mission with US-led coalition warplanes against IS in Syria. That claim was immediately denied by the Pentagon.

Asked if the openness extended to working with Syrian President Bashar Assad, who has been condemned internationally for killing civilians, Spicer said, “We’re not going to get together with people under the guise of defeating ISIS if that’s not truly their guise.” He added, “So let’s not take that too far.”

Spicer also suggested that Trump already has told Defense Secretary James Mattis to change the US approach to fighting the Islamic State.

“I think he has ordered it,” Spicer said, adding that Trump would discuss the matter with Mattis during a visit to the Pentagon Friday.

“At that time, he will continue to have conversations about what he wants from them and the joint chiefs,” he added, referring to the military service chiefs.

Trump has not yet spelled out how he will change the US approach in Syria or Iraq. During the campaign he said that as president he would ensure the Islamic State’s quick defeat. At CIA headquarters over the weekend, he repeated his campaign assertion that the US had erred in not taking control of Iraq’s oil as compensation for having ousted President Saddam Hussein in 2003.

“If we kept the oil you probably wouldn’t have ISIS because that’s where they made their money in the first place,” Trump said. “So we should have kept the oil. But, OK, maybe you’ll have another chance.”

Asked what Trump meant, Spicer said, “We want to be sure our interests are protected. We’re going into a country for a cause. He wants to be sure America is getting something out of it for the commitment and sacrifice it is making.”