With the shocking victory of Donald Trump on Tuesday, November 8th, a number of questions come into play in regards to foreign policy. Clinton, having been heavily involved in foreign policy as First Lady, Senator and Secretary of State has foreign policy positions that are predictable. She would continue many of the policies of Barack Obama and then some. Now that the opportunity to become president has passed. Donald Trump will be securing the reigns of power come January 20th and there are a number of policy recommendations that he should take. Seeing that there are many parts of the world which deserve attention, I will break up the policy recommendations into sections based on region. This article will discuss the actions Trump should take in the Middle East region.
-Syria, Iraq & ISIS-
In two of my previous articles, I talked about the ground situation in Syria. One was in regards to Russia, the other to Turkey. President Trump needs to stop funding and weapons supply for all rebel groups in Syria, other than the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG). As I have mentioned before, this is the only reliable group on the ground that is not jihadist or working with jihadists. The YPG has been an incredibly effective fighting force against ISIS and has been able to seize large swathes of land back from the self-declared caliphate. It, and its affiliated political entity, the Rojava, has proven to be one of the most secular groups in the middle east.
In addition to cutting off all support for the jihadist-infested Syrian opposition, Trump must allow the Syrian Government and Russia to retake control over parts of Syria that have been seized by opposition groups. Huge amounts of areas, particularly around Aleppo and Idlib are under the direct control of Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, al-Qaeda's former affiliate in Syria. While Russia and Assad's forces are retaking these areas, the Trump administration can focus on taking out the remaining strongholds of ISIS in both Syria and Iraq.
The current offensive on Mosul is underway and ISIS is losing ground. By the time Trump takes office in January, this may well be over. However, ISIS's self-proclaimed capital of Ar-Raqqah will be a much tougher challenge. On November 6th, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a coalition which the YPG is the main component of, launched Operation Euphrates Rage, which it intends to take the city of Ar-Raqqah in one final blow to ISIS. Trump's administration must do all it can to arm and support the YPG in this operation, via air support, special forces, and weapons supplies. The YPG currently has a form of detente with the Assad regime and has even worked with them in operations around Aleppo. The only major hinderance to this offensive is the presence of Turkey interfering in Syria along the northern border. It fears the Kurdish Rojava would extend its territorial control along the entire stretch of northern border. The Turks see the YPG as an extension of the PKK, as it is allied to the group. For that reason, it launched Operation Euphrates Shield on August 24th, after an ISIS attack in southern Turkey. They timed their invasion after the attack to justify a ground invasion of Syria to combat ISIS in the border area. However, its true intention was to block the YPG from taking the entire border area. It armed and supported Islamist rebels to help it seize the border area from ISIS, while also shelling YPG positions close to the border. The YPG is fearful that Turkey will attempt to take the hard fought city of Manbij from them forcing them to withdraw forces from the new operation to take Ar-Raqqah. Trump must put pressure on Turkey to not interfere with the operation. In addition to this, we must distance ourselves from Turkey, as they now hold opposing foreign policy interests to that of the US and no longer remain a true ally of ours. I covered this issue in an article from October.
After defeating ISIS in Syria, President Trump should help ensure the existence of the aforementioned Rojava, which is the autonomous Kurdish region of which the YPG is affiliated. He should pressure Assad and Russia to guarantee the existence of the region within Syria. This is feasible, as the Assad Government and the Syrian Kurds have largely been avoiding each other during the war to focus on mutual threats. After Assad has regained control over the remaining parts of Syria and stability has been restored, Trump should focus on Iran's influence in Iraq.
President Bush created the worst foreign policy blunder in modern US history with the 2003 invasion of Iraq, toppling the Secular dictator Saddam Hussein. Saddam, a Sunni, was a bitter rival of Iran, having fought a decade long war with the Shia theocracy in the 1980's. We invaded the nation with faulty evidence and found out that Saddam had no links with al-Qaeda, or WMDs as the Bush administration claimed. Following Saddam's removal, his Shia rivals within the country gradually took over the nation. This allowed Iran to infiltrate the nation by arming, supplying, and training Shia groups like the Mahdi Army, led by the Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. With Obama's hasty pull out of the nation, which created a power vacuum and led to the rise of ISIS, Iran also further entrenched their position as the dominating power over the Iraqi political scene. Now with the war against ISIS, Iran has sent the Quds Force, a branch of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) to take part in operations against ISIS while continuing the training, funding, and weapons supplies of Shia militias. This all happening with the approval of the Iraqi Prime Minister Hader al Abadi. Iraq has essentially become a puppet state of Iran.
When ISIS is toppled in Iraq as well as Syria, President Trump must put pressure on Iran by severely weakening its influence in the region. He can begin to do this upon his first few months in office. The obvious action he must first take is to scrap the Iran-Deal, which has led to the lifting of economic sanctions and only placing a 15-year limit on nuclear proliferation for most of the provisions in the agreement. Some aspects of the deal even end after 10 years. The Obama Administration put a temporary band-aid on a serious issue that would exacerbate in a short period and the whole world bought it. Iran has been emboldened by the deal and because of the lifting of economic sanctions. They are now able to exert their influence over the region with much more ease than before, when the US and European nations were crippling the Islamic Republic with these sanctions. Proof of this is the current war in Yemen, which the Houthis, a Zayidi Shia militant group has been receiving financial, medical and weapons support from Iran. In addition to this, the former President of Yemen, Ali Abdullah Saleh, had very close ties with Iran during his 34 year reign and is now supporting the Houthis in their attempt to take control over the country.
The fact that Iran has close ties with Syria and Russia may prove to be an issue, as the Trump Administration will be trying to warm relations with the latter. However, I believe that we can improve relations with Russia, while putting more pressure on Iran. The Russians under Putin's leadership are not concerned about Iran in particular, but their military and diplomatic influence over certain regions in the Middle East. The same goes for Assad in Syria. He is concerned about the survival of his regime. If Iran were no longer a factor in maintaining his government's existence, yet his government was still able to thrive, Assad most likely wouldn't care. If President Trump can convince Assad's Government in Syria and Putin's Government in Russia that they can still maintain their power and influence without the help of Iran, then this may be possible. Iran must be crippled economically, straining their ability to exert influence over the Middle East. The US must also ensure that Iran does not ever have the capacity to make or possess nuclear bombs. The Islamic Republic of Iran is controlled by radical Islamists whose goal is to dominate the middle east and create a Shia Caliphate. A radical theocratic nation with these goals may actually use nuclear bombs if tensions are high between a rival nation. This must not be permitted.
-Saudi Arabia & the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) nations
The same type of pressure that must be put on Iran must also be put on Saudi Arabia. The Wahabbist Monarchy that dominates OPEC is not, and has never been, an ally of ours. We have simply had a somewhat close relationship with the nation because they have been a major supplier of oil to the US. This is no longer the case. With the advent of new energies such as solar and wind, as well as our ability to utilize hydraulic fracturing to obtain oil and natural gas here in the US, we can now be an energy independent nation. We will no longer have to cooperate with the corrupt and openly Islamist nation or kowtow to their demands because we are an energy client of theirs. Prior to WWII, the US was the largest supplier of oil in the world. We can be that again. Another reason why Trump should move away from Saudi Arabia is the fact that they have armed and supplied our enemies. The recent revelation from the previously unreleased 28 pages in the 9/11 Commission report show that the Saudi Government was complicit in the 9/11 attacks. In addition to that, thanks to wikileaks, we know that Saudi Arabia and Qatar were arming ISIS with weapons that we sold them when Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State. The US should begin to back away from these nations, as they do not share any of the same interests as the US. Saudi Arabia is in a power struggle with Iran over control of the Middle East. We must ensure that neither nation becomes too dominant in the region. By becoming energy independent and encouraging the world's nations to buy from the US and other oil rich nations like Canada, we can weaken both Iran and Saudi Arabia, as well as the other GCC nations' stranglehold over the world by taking away their dominance over the energy market, their greatest source of power. This will give the US more bargaining power over these nations, where we can pressure them to take certain actions such as taking in refugees from war torn Muslim nations, instead of forcing the West to take in an overwhelming number of these people, whose culture, religion and way of life conflict with ours and only create problems. These problems include an increase in terrorist attacks, sexual assaults, attacks on the gay community, as well as an increasing number of Sharia zones, sharia patrols in western nations, and an overall long term demographic change that does not bode well for the West. This is evident in the current refugee crisis in Europe. Saudi Arabia has not taken in a single refugee, yet they have the capacity and ability to do so. President Trump must pressure Saudi Arabia and the other GCC nations such as Kuwait, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates to take in the bulk of these refugees, who will assimilate much easier in these nations who share the same religion and cultural values.
The Obama Administration has had nothing but contempt for Israel during his presidency. While claiming that he supported Israel for mainly formality reasons, his actual support was lukewarm. The Obama Administration enthusiastically supported the Muslim Brotherhood affiliated former President of Egypt Mohammed Morsi, who held hostile views towards Israel, while he lambasted the military coup in 2013 and has denounced the new president, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, who holds favorable positions towards Israel. Obama condemned Israel's actions during Operation Pillar of Defense in 2012, and Operation Protective Edge in 2014, in which Israel was attacked by Hamas rockets, provoking a war on both occasions. Obama has been reluctant to support Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has been the best Prime Minister of Israel for decades. President Obama has tried to hamper the efforts of Netanyahu by showing support for his political opponents. In fact the Obama Administration even sent US taxpayer money to support Issac Herzog of the Israeli Labor Party in his bid to replace Benjamin Netanyahu as PM. President Trump must show his unwavering support for Israel and the Netanyahu Government. The UN, the Sunni Gulf nations, and globalist international community has put immense pressure on Israel over the Palestinian issue. Trump must stand with Israel and back them in their efforts to protect the land that is rightfully theirs as well as assist them in foreign policy interests which both nations share.
The Middle East is most definitely the most difficult foreign policy area for any US administration. It will not be easy to defeat Islamic terrorism and bring stability to the war torn nations in the region while simultaneously keeping Iran and Saudi Arabia at bay. Donald Trump needs to brush up on his knowledge of the Middle East, Islamic traditions, and culture and tribal power struggles that exist in these nations. He must also place his faith and trust in his advisors. Mike Pence is an experienced legislator with a treasure trove of knowledge and must play a very active role in this administration, which I think he will. Additionally Trump must heed the advice of General Mike Flynn, who also will most likely play a major role in his administration. John Bolton, George W. Bush's Ambassador to the UN is also an experienced foreign policy expert whose advice Trump should also listen to. In addition to these figures that I named, a large number of foreign policy experts exist that Trump absolutely needs to seek counsel from. His knowledge of foreign policy still remains very limited, and must rely on his advisors for advice in order for the aforementioned policy recommendations to happen. Simultaneously, Trump must resist pressure from neo-conservative elements within the Republican Party from making future foreign policy blunders like the Iraq War. The Trump Administration's foreign policy in the Middle East can be a successful one, but it must tread carefully, as the middle east's problems are vast and one wrong mistake can lead to a Pandora's box of no return.