BRISBANE, Australia (AFP) – US President Barack Obama on Sunday rejected any alliance with Bashar al-Assad against the Islamic State group, arguing that the Syrian ruler was illegitimate and that any such pact would backfire.
“Assad has ruthlessly murdered hundreds of thousands of his citizens. As a consequence, he has completely lost legitimacy with the majority of the country,” Obama told reporters after a G20 summit in Brisbane.
“For us to then make common cause with him against ISIL (Islamic State) would only turn more Sunnis in Syria in the direction of supporting ISIL and would weaken our coalition (against IS),” he said.
US reports this week said the president had ordered a wholesale review of his administration’s Syria policy, with Assad still in power despite an armed uprising that is now in its fourth year.
The conflict has become many-sided as radical militants gain ground, notably the Islamic State group and the al-Nusra Front, which is affiliated to al-Qaeda.
Obama has built an international coalition against IS as it rampages across both Syria and Iraq. The coalition in September launched its first air strikes against the militants, using Syrian air space, and Obama is deploying up to 1,500 more US troops to Iraq.