“I’ve had an opposite view of many people regarding Syria. My attitude was you’re fighting Syria, Syria is fighting Isis, and you have to get rid of Isis,” he said in a wide-ranging interview with the Wall Street Journal on Friday.
Mr Trump has stated that while he “did not like [Mr Assad] at all”, shoring up his regime is the best way to stem the extremism that has flourished in the chaos of the civil war and threatens the US.
“Russia is now totally aligned with Syria, and now you have Iran, which is becoming powerful, because of us, is aligned with Syria… Now we’re backing rebels against Syria, and we have no idea who those people are,” he told the Journal, referring to the hardline Sunni Islamist elements present in rebel ranks. If the US attacks Mr Assad, “We end up fighting Russia,” he added.