The United States was creating a plan to assassinate Syrian dictator Bashar Assad in 2017, President Trump revealed in a media interview Tuesday.
Trump noted that while he favored an operation to eliminate Assad, then-Secretary of Defense James Mattis did not believe the U.S. should take out the dictator. The president discussed the matter in an on-air phone call with the show "Fox & Friends."
"I would've rather taken him out," said the commander in chief. "I had him all set. Mattis didn't want to do it. Mattis was a highly overrated general."
Trump's comments about Assad were part of a lengthy criticism of Mattis. They contradict Trump's previous denial that any such plan existed.
In 2018, the president said such a move "was never even contemplated, nor would it be contemplated."
The president's also panned Mattis's performance as a military leader.
"To me, he was a terrible general," Trump said. "He was a bad leader, and he wasn't doing the job with ISIS. He was not doing the job in Syria or Iraq with respect to ISIS."
? Syria has been embroiled in a civil war since 2011. Assad has brutalized and killed Syrian civilians, including using chemical weapons against them. An April 2020 report from Agence France-Presse said 380,000 people have died in the war, including at least 115,000 civilians.