Trump or Obama: Who Will Claim Glory for Defeating Terrorism?

Translated by Ollie Richardson & Angelina Siard


Gevorg Mirzayan, associate professor of the Department of political science of The Financial University under the Government of the Russian Federation, for RIA Novosti.

The US President-elect Donald Trump hinted at the possibility of dropping support for the “moderate” opposition and the unwillingness to depose Bashar al-Assad. Americans and Europeans saw in this decision the initial surrender of Trump before Putin, but in fact the new leader of the White house, on the contrary, has strengthened his position in future negotiations with Russian counterparts.

Donald Trump’s introduction as the leader of the White House is about two months away, however, the President already began to outline the contours of the new policy. Including in the international arena.

Who are all these people?

The most revolutionary “revelation” was Trump’s desire to fulfill his campaign promises concerning Syria. According to him, the United States should focus on combating ISIS terrorists, rather than seeking the overthrow of President Bashar al-Assad.

And because Trump didn’t receive an answer to the question on the “moderate” opposition — “who are these people?” — the United States under him, apparently, will refuse to support the anti-Assad forces in Syria.

The New York Times writes that Trump intends in particular to stop supplying militants with anti-tank systems. The President-elect ignored the request of the Minister of Defence Ashton Carter “not to unite and not to cooperate with the Russians, until they begin to do the right thing (that is, to fight ISIS and aid Assad’s departure”). According to Trump, he is personally unsympathetic to the Syrian leader, however, the overthrow of the Assad regime may lead to increased extremism in the region and, accordingly, the threat that this extremism poses to the United States.

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Trump’s statement was, of course, welcomed in Damascus and Moscow. The Syrians expressed hope for dialogue with the Americans, but the Russian authorities said that dialogue it is not enough. The Press Secretary of Vladimir Putin Dmitry Peskov said that Moscow is interested in, as quickly as possible, constructive cooperation with the United States on the Syrian issue, and does not want to wait a few months before the official inauguration of Trump.

Among the so-called “moderate opposition”, clearly, there is despondency. The deprivation of political and military support from the United States and the refusal of Washington to overthrow Assad will be a critical blow to them.

Recall that the Kremlin has already reached an agreement with the second main sponsor of the militants – Turkey. Erdogan withdrew his support of the militants in Aleppo and began the process of normalizing relations with Damascus, having received as compensation a free hand in the Kurdish question.

In this situation, a number of groups in the same Aleppo can realize the hopelessness of further resistance and can negotiate with Bashar al-Assad.

Will it be corrected?

Finally, the shock to Europe. The acting policy of the EU is not ready for such a sharp reversal towards the Assad regime, and there is talk that Trump is starting to hand over the positions to Vladimir Putin. Even if Trump wanted to “sell” Moscow a changed position on the Syrian issue, why in advance devalue your asset, stating that the United States for sure will flush the opposition and will negotiate with Assad?

Some countries, however, still hope to persuade the American leader, as unlike the Syrian rebels, they have channels of influence over Washington.

Thus, the British “The Times” writes that the UK authorities are trying to find ways to influence the American President. In order to more effectively influence friendly leaders, London already decided to gently distance itself from the European negative position regarding the new President and to participate in public discussions about “how life will be under Trump”.

However, it is unlikely that the strategy of London is destined to succeed. And not only that, as was noted by Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin, “the British tail wags the dog.”

Trump’s position is consistent and pragmatic, and is connected with a desire to strengthen the US position on the Syrian issue and increase the effectiveness of American diplomacy.

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New stakes, please

First of all, there are no questions about aligning the cost of an asset. Vowing to change course on Syria, Trump used a very careful wording, merely noting his desire to take such a step.

Thus, he a) demonstrated the seriousness of his intentions and b) indicated that changing course will be very difficult. And in order to convince the Congress to support President, Putin should offer the States a decent compensation. And far more worthy than before this statement.

After all, earlier the essence of the compensation was clear: the United States wanted to receive from Moscow a clear formula for the departure of Bashar al-Assad. And not because the same Obama disliked his Syrian counterpart, but because after the defeat in Iraq, Libya, and Afghanistan (and, according to some, Iran, Turkey and Yemen), the Americans needed a victory, at least in the Syrian campaign.

A victory is always understood as an achievement of an aim, and the aim of the United States was “ridding Syria of Bashar al-Assad”. It doesn’t matter how – a voluntary departure, overthrow, or elimination.

Accordingly, the Kremlin was able to “sell” to the US an acceptable formula for Assad’s departure (for example, a public statement of the Syrian leader about the refusal to participate in new elections), and to receive for this formula very, very serious concessions. And not only in Syria.

But now this stake of Russia has lost much of its value – Trump changed the aim of the American campaign from the overthrow of the regime to combatting terrorism. And Putin will have to look for other options compensation to Trump in future Russian-American talks.

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Overall, the statement of Trump, although complicating the negotiations, it is strategically beneficial for Russia.

At least because it brings together the Russian-American stance on Syria and could cause Washington and Moscow to fight together against common enemies.

Another important consequence of the statement of Trump could be the image “denouement” with al-Qaeda. It is no secret that the US actually supports the branch of this group in Syria – who renamed itself, but remains itself “Jabhat al-Nusra”.

Washington forgot about revenge for 11th September, in order not to dislodge from the ranks of Assad’s opponents one of the most powerful figures.

Trump not only refuses to “deal with the devil”, but actually shifts the blame for the conclusion of this deal on Obama.

In fact, the current President reads Trump’s game and is unwilling to enter US history as a traitor of the victims of September 11th. That’s why Obama gave the order to find and eliminate the leaders of “al-Nusra”, as well as to hurry with the capture of Mosul.

But will he be in time? Or will all the laurels of the winner of terrorism and the savior of the world from a nuclear war go to the eccentric, but visionary billionaire?

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