On the campaign trail Donald Trump repeatedly signaled that he would back away from the attacks on President Bashar Al-Assad’s legitimacy and ability to rule Syria. Underappreciated by many not familiar with the situation and its history, this was one of his most controversial campaign positions, and a source of serious consternation for the establishment that opposed him.
Trump did not make it a centerpiece of his rousing campaign stump speeches for the obvious reason that the sovereignty of Syria is not foremost on the minds of unemployed coal workers in Pennsylvania. However, at various points Trump indicated that he found the Obama administration’s policy of fighting both Assad and ISIS at the same time, endorsed by both Hillary Clinton and establishment Republicans such as Jeb Bush, to be nothing short of stupid. The policy was absurd on its face, because it meant fighting two opposing sides in a war simultaneously.
Now it looks like Trump means to make good on this campaign rhetoric. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson announced last week at a meeting with Turkish leaders that the White House is no longer seeking the removal of Assad. “I think the status and the longer-term status of President Assad will be decided by the Syrian people,” he said, when asked directly about the future of Syria.
This is a major policy shift from the Obama administration, which refused to countenance a solution to the Syrian war that included Assad remaining in power. Assad has been accused of serious war crimes, including gassing his own people, but these crimes have not been proven, and it is only prudent to not repeat the errors of the past and go to war hastily over what turns out to be atrocity propaganda.
Trump’s approach on Syria fits logically with his attitude towards Russia, which is allied with Syria. Had Russia not intervened in the Syrian war to back President Assad, Syria most likely would have fallen to Assad’s enemies, which include Jihadist terrorist groups and ISIS.
If it weren’t for Putin stepping in to back Assad, the genocidal terror machine ISIS would have most likely expanded in Syria. Trump wants to work with Putin, and by extension Assad, to eliminate ISIS in Syria and the world. There is no way this would be possible without taking a new approach to Assad.
Unfortunately, Trump’s willingness to have good relations with Russia has been used against him. President Trump has been subjected to an endless source of unbelievable conspiracy mongering by establishment figures who, because they oppose Trump’s political agenda, seek to undermine his moral and legal legitimacy as President by accusing him of being part of a Russian conspiracy.
Hillary Clinton campaigned on establishing a no-fly zone in Syria, which could have easily led to Russian fighter jets being shot down, an act which could have then led to an armed confrontation with the only country with a nuclear stockpile comparable to America’s. In short, her proposed policies could have led to World War III. In this clip from last year, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Joseph Dunford explains on the Senate floor that Hillary Clinton’s proposed no-fly zone over Syria, if fully implemented, would lead to war with Russia and Syria.
Our relations with Russia are the worst they’ve been since early in the Cold War. Here is a video from 2015 of Russia expert professor Stephen Cohen of Princeton explaining that the situation is actually worse than the Cold War. Donald Trump understands this, and in a truly conservative move, is acting to avert an unnecessary global war over Syria.
What Obama did arming rebels in Syria was deeply irresponsible and destructive. He delivered hordes of weapons and cash to the most regressive forces in the region so that they could take out a secular and legally elected leader. Yes, Assad is deeply flawed. It is questionable if he is guilty of all the war crimes he is accused of, but even if he is, those who seek to replace him would most likely be worse.
This may sound extreme, but it is the grim reality. Those seeking to replace Assad would implement hardcore Sharia law and make life very difficult for Christians and other minorities who are not Sunni Muslim. Wherever ISIS or similar groups take control, Christians and other minorities such as the Yazidis face rape and extermination.
During the years that Aleppo was captured by rebel groups, Christmas could not be celebrated openly. In 2016, Assad’s forces, with the backing of the Russians, reclaimed Aleppo, and for the first time in years the people celebrated Christmas in the streets. They celebrated with the lighting of a giant Christmas tree and Syrian people dressed as Santa Claus blowing melodies of joy on horns, as can be seen in this video.
Such a scene in a majority Muslim country might surprise Westerners, but Syria is only 71.6% Muslim. Under the rule of the Alawite Al-Assad family, Syrian minorities enjoy relative freedom and security. The Alawite’s have cultural tastes not so unlike Europeans. They are Shia Muslims, who only represent about 10% of Muslims worldwide, and they have extensive additional idiosyncratic beliefs that they try to keep secret. Their version of Islam includes Christian, Gnostic, and neo-Platonic elements. Assad himself was educated as a doctor in France, and his style of rule in Syria does not include the theocratic barbarism of Saudi Arabia, ISIS, or any of the other intolerant Islamic regimes.
It should also be noted that Assad has publicly supported President Trump’s ban on Syrian refugees coming to the United States, saying that there are “definitely” terrorists among the refugee population.
The groups seeking to wrest control of the country from Assad are not Alawite, and they would impose a vastly different, and darker, form of rule upon Syrian society if they were to win. The fighting and suffering continues in Syria, but the worst part of the war has most likely passed.
One should wonder why these things are never explained in the mainstream media. There are powerful interests that seek to further destabilize the Middle East, whether it be for perceived geo-strategic gains, or a misguided ideology of human rights that dictates the West must somehow magically transform, by fiat, every culture on the planet into a western liberal democracy. This ideology, represented on the right by the neo-conservatives who were powerful during the George W. Bush years, is definitely not a conservative ideology, having more to do with the radical utopianism and revolutionary politics of the left.
Those on the left who did oppose establishment foreign policy under Obama were few, and they have almost no power in the corrupt Democratic party. Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, a Democrat from Hawaii and a veteran, is one of those who understands these matters and has the courage to speak out. Last fall she secretly took a trip to Syria, where she unexpectedly got to meet with Assad.
The message she brought back was that all Syrian people were united in one plea to Americans, to please stop arming the terrorist rebels, to stop supporting the people making life hell in Syria. What Gabbard brought back confirmed everything Trump had been hinting at, and the Democratic establishment was furious with Gabbard. She was attacked not only by her elected colleagues, but across the mainstream liberal press.
Interestingly, before going on this trip to Syria, Gabbard met with Trump privately at his club in New Jersey when he was interviewing candidates for top positions in his administration. While it was unlikely that Trump would appoint her to a high level position, they probably had an intriguing and fruitful discussion about their agreement on these issues.
Secretary Tillerson’s statement is confirmation that Trump is slave of no party, ideology, or establishment interests, that he is a leader who does his best, within the confines of political reality, to act according to what he thinks is the truly right decision in a given situation.