It has been reported in many media outlets that Donald Trump is aligning himself with the foreign policy goals of Russia, according to members of the Clinton campaign team. It is difficult however to determine what goals the U.S. and Russia do not have in common currently. The U.S. and Russia along with Iran are carrying out strikes against the same enemy in Syria and Iraq, as well as focusing on assisting many of the same groups in fighting against ISIS and even giving some assistance to help minorities stave off extinction.
While there is still a minuscule amount of assistance to minority groups in the region trying to avoid a complete genocide of their people, Russia’s aggressive bombing of ISIS targets allows the U.S. to remove itself from being seen as the main aggressor in the region.
The end result is unfortunate for minority groups, as it keeps those groups subject to the tactical goals of larger power entities in the region and acquiesces the foreign policy approach of Syria and Iraq to Russia and its objectives, ones that are linked to their actions in Crimea and Ukraine.
A lack of clear U.S. policy goals have left groups like the Yazidis, Kurds and other minorities in peril, without any significant assistance lurking on the horizon. It has even gotten to the point where Turkish planes have been attacking Kurdish forces while they are trying to fight ISIS in Iraq and Syria and help some Yazidi communities when possible.
When the U.S. is working with Iran on a nuclear deal, the American allies are lead to believe that the approach of the current administration is to make Iran the leading power broker in the region, a policy that would empowering Shi’as in their non-traditional lands, a disaster for Sunnis and would align the U.S. with Russia, Iran and Assad’s Syria.
This week, Russia launched air strikes against Aleppo from Iran itself. This was the first time Russia launched strikes from Iran directly. U.S. officials claimed that Russian attacks were more focused on Syrian rebel groups, as opposed to ISIS targets, a claim that Russian officials deny.
A new push to arm Syrian rebels against Assad’s Syrian Army forces spurned on claims that the U.S. and its allies give weapons to rebel groups that often change allegiances and end up giving equipment to ISIS itself. It is not clear whether or not the equipment might have come from Syrian rebels, or abandoned by a routing Iraqi army, but the complex nature of allegiances in the region likely placed U.S. made weapons in the wrong hands.
Despite claims of attacks against U.S. allied Syrian rebel groups, there has been little done to push Russia to stop these attacks against rebels nor define a relationship with Iran that would satisfy U.S. Sunni allies in the region. Russia has placed its bet on Assad and the Syrian army, as there is no other viable alternative that would not lead to a failed state according to Russian officials.
In the eyes of Russia, Iran, American allies and many Americans themselves, the United States is no longer guiding foreign policy in the Middle East. Russian foreign policy, for better or worse, is determining the future for everyone in the region.