Laura Overmeyer
February 2017.

What might Donald Trump mean for Syria?

1 answer

The short answer is, we just don’t know. He mentioned no fly zones but I don’t think the American military is going to go for it at all. That’s because it implies a long term commitment, and somebody is going to have to protect these enclaves. I think the military is going to say: we won't do that, it’s nation building, forget it.

Trump’s articulated a policy, but I don’t know if he’s actually going to follow it. What policy has he articulated? Basically, dictators are good, regime change is bad. Russia is good, ISIS is bad. He’s said, we’re going to destroy ISIS, team up with Russia, and stabilise everywhere by keeping dictators in their place. We’re not going to try this fanciful notion of regime change that dominated both the Bush and the Obama administrations. It’s a fairly coherent policy. That is if it is in fact his policy which, we really have zero clue about. He’s also said other things, so we’ll see what happens.

Trump’s articulated a policy, but I don’t know if he’s actually going to follow it. 

Trump’s commitment to hitting ISIS is also going to have a significant impact. In Iraq, the United States are bombing on the side of the Shiites. In places like Ramadi and Mosul they’re using a very sectarian Shiite army, backed by Iran, to assert power over ISIS-dominated Sunni regions. That means the US is bombing in favour of Iran. In Syria, Russia is doing the exact same thing – bombing Sunni regions, the rebel groups fighting against the government, in favour of the Shiite dominated Assad regime. And Trump has indicated that he has plans to support the Russian cause in that as well.

So two Shiite-dominated militaries are reasserting their control over the Sunni edifice that stretches over Baghdad and Aleppo, and they’ve got the two best air forces in the world, the US and Russia, at their beck and call. That’s very bad news for Sunnis. I wouldn’t say it’s lights out – I don’t think they’ll be entirely ethnically cleansed – but certainly something that approaches ethnic cleansing is taking place.

As this leads to more Sunni refugees, Trump seems likely to pull up the drawbridge. He’s certainly not wasting any time and those policies seems to be really popular. So people in the third world, which is in the middle of interethnic conflict and fighting civil war, are all going to try and jump in and swim to the first world to try and find a better life for their kids. But they’re going to find the drawbridge is pulled up, so they’re going to sit around in camps in Greece or Turkey or other neighbouring countries, that are just fast becoming festering regions of despair.

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