Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump warned Tuesday that his rival Hillary Clinton’s policies on Syria would lead the US into World War Three if the Democrat candidate is elected to the White House.
Trump, whose campaign has been derailed by sexual assault allegations as well as by comments he has made that were deemed offensive to women, Muslims and other minorities, also lashed out at Republican Party leaders, many of whom have withdrawn their support for him over the remarks.
In an interview with Reuters, Trump termed Clinton “incompetent” and said her calls to enforce a no-fly zone in Syria as a way of preventing the regime from carrying out airstrikes on civilians would put the US on a collision course with Russia and its ally Iran.
“She has no plan for Syria,” Trump said, speaking on the campaign trail in Florida at the Trump National Doral golf resort. “With her, you’ll end up in World War Three. She doesn’t know what she’s doing. So you’re not fighting Syria anymore, you’re fighting Syria, Russia, and Iran.”
Russia and Iran have provided diplomatic and military support for Syria’s embattled President Bashar Assad in a five-year civil war said to have killed close to half a million people, many of them civilians, and displaced millions more.
Amid reports that Washington is considering strikes on Syrian military positions, Russia issued a warning earlier this month saying it would prevent any such action.
“What we should do is focus on ISIS, we should not be focusing on Syria,” Trump asserted, using an acronym for the Islamic State group, which a US-led coalition has been working to defeat in Syria and Iraq.
IS conquered large areas of Syria and Iraq in recent years and brutally imposed a harsh interpretation of Islamic law on local populations.
“Assad is secondary, to me, to ISIS,” Trump stressed.
While Moscow claims it is also fighting IS, its jets have largely been bombing anti-Assad forces, as well as civilian targets in the beleaguered northern Syrian city of Aleppo. Clinton has stated that as president, she would seek to impose a no-fly zone to protect civilians from Russian and Syrian bombardments.
But Trump warned, “Her plan, you’re going to end up with World War Three over Syria…if we listen to Hillary Clinton, she’s incompetent.”
In an apparent dig at President Barack Obama, he added: “Russia is a nuclear country, but a country where the nukes work as opposed to other countries that talk.”
Trump also questioned how Clinton would be able to maintain a working relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin given her previous harsh criticism of him during her term as secretary of state in 2009-2013.
In a statement, Clinton spokesman Jesse Lehrich dismissed Trump’s comments as fear-mongering.
“Once again, he is parroting Putin’s talking points and playing to Americans’ fears, all while refusing to lay out any plans of his own for defeating ISIS or alleviating humanitarian suffering in Syria,” he said.
In the interview Trump, who is trailing Clinton in opinion polls, also slammed his own party’s upper echelons for their faltering support.
“If the leaders were helping me we couldn’t lose this election. It would be an impossibility,” he said, repeating his claim that “media is rigging the polls.”
“The people are very angry with the leadership of this party, because this is an election that we will win 100 percent if we had support from the top,” he said. “I think we’re going to win it anyway.”