World leaders react to Trump's State of the Union

Charlene Craig
February 7, 2019

Republicans, military officials and USA allies overseas have all questioned Mr Trump's assertion that IS has been defeated.

Former Secretary of Defense James Mattis was right to disagree with President Donald Trump over his plan to withdraw USA troops from Syria, a top civilian official at the Pentagon told congressional lawmakers on Wednesday.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who spoke to Trump before the pullout orders, has vowed to crush the Kurdish fighters in Syria, linking them to separatists at home.

USA officials say so-called Islamic State has lost 99.5% of its territory and is holding on to fewer than two square miles in Syria in the villages of the Middle Euphrates River Valley, where the bulk of the fighters are concentrated.

"As we make progress in these negotiations, we will be able to reduce our troop presence and focus on counter-terrorism", he said.

"Now they reform. We know that, but they're having a hard time reforming and I wouldn't say it's a great job to have because of us", he said, referring to prospective recruits. He said the fight is entering a new stage where those allied against IS must confront a "decentralized jihad" with more than military force.

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Meanwhile, a report by a USA defence department watchdog cited Central Command as saying that without sustained pressure IS "could likely resurge in Syria within six to 12 months".

"We do have to keep pressure on this network, it is a resilient network".

"Not only did Judah narrowly escape death last fall - more than seven decades ago, he narrowly survived the Nazi concentration camps", Trump said.

Melanie Nezer, senior vice president of public affairs for the agency, said in a statement that "Stories of Holocaust survivors are reminders that we should welcome the stranger and protect the refugee". The move has received bipartisan pushback from officials and politicians who have feared an ISIS resurgence and growing Iranian influence in the region, but Trump said there were only "remnants" of the group left and, while "remnants can be very risky", he looked forward to welcoming USA troops home.

But the president also said there will always be "sick" and "demented" people in the region, "no matter how well we do militarily".

"I want to be able to watch Iran", he said.

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"We ask each of your countries to stand with us and, through our efforts and God's help, the day will come when the permanent defeat of ISIS is a reality", Pompeo said. Those are seen as efforts to reassure allies anxious about shifts in USA policy, including Trump's Syria plan. And Votel replied, "We were not".

"Remnants - that's all they have, remnants - but remnants can be very risky", he said.

Gen Votel told a senate committee this week that without sustained counterterrorism pressure the IS militants would regroup.

"We are still ready to accept America's... repentance despite the fact that for years it has done injustice to us", he told foreign diplomats in Tehran during a ceremony to mark the 40th anniversary of Iran's Islamic Revolution.

Asked about a recent CNN report detailing how United States supplied military equipment provided to Saudi Arabia and the UAE was winding up in the hands of local militias in Yemen, Votel said, "We have not authorized Saudi Arabia or the Emirates to re-transfer any of this equipment to other parties on the ground in Yemen".

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