Foreign Policy Blogs

Does Trump’s foreign policy enable Iranian aggression in the Middle East?

From Syria to Iraq, Trump’s Middle East policy enables Iran to spread its tentacles across the region.

During the elections, Donald Trump was highly critical of former US President Barack Obama’s foreign policy to the Middle East. From Obama refusing to follow his own red line policy on Syria to the Iranian nuclear deal, Trump proclaimed that “Obama is a disaster on foreign policy” who treated enemies with “tender love and care” while picking fights “with our older friends.” However, since he became US President, Donald Trump has demonstrated not only that he is no better than Obama on foreign policy but some analysts claim that on Middle Eastern affairs, he is actually worse than him to the point that certain circles in Washington, DC who could not stand Obama are actually beginning to miss him.

Let us begin with Syria. While ISIS is essentially dead in the country, Trump has enabled both Russia and Iran to fill the void. He has backed away from seeking regime change. While the US did assist the Syrian Democratic Forces in their struggle against ISIS, Trump has left Russia and Iran in charge of securing security arrangements, creating safe zones, and above all, leading the diplomatic process that will determine the future of the country. While Trump has not abandoned the Syrian Kurds yet for he is still supporting the Syrian Democratic Forces against ISIS, he did leave that option on the table in order to prompt Turkey to abandon the Iranian axis and to reach a greater understanding on Syria with Russia.

Many Syrian Kurds feel that this is a great betrayal after they worked so hard in order to help the US rid the country from ISIS. Furthermore, had Trump supported breaking up Syria into separate states that better reflect the ethnic reality in the country, only part of the country rather than the entire area will fall to Tehran! The US should have engaged with the Kurds, the Druze and Sunni Arabs in order to make sure as many areas as possible did not fall to the Iranian axis. While Obama abandoning his red lines enabled the radical Islamists to overtake what was a peaceful revolution, Trump’s Syria policy has empowered the Iranian regime in Syria to the detriment of America’s natural allies.

Not only Syrian Kurds feel betrayed by Trump. The State of Israel is greatly disturbed that US President Trump has allowed Iranian-backed militias to be within 3 miles of the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights. This is a horrendous reality that even Obama did not impose on the State of Israel. Now, Iran is building a permanent base some 50 kilometers from the Israeli Golan Heights and making moves in order to secure its land route from Iraq to Syria to the Israeli border. This will give Iran a strategic advantage in harming the State of Israel. And this decision was made by a US President who claims there is “no one more pro-Israel than I am.”

In addition, the situation in Iraq has greatly deteriorated largely because Trump has decided to side with Abadi over the Iraqi Kurds. The US knowingly allowed the transfer of US weapons and technology to the Iranian backed militias in order to attack the Kurds while making assurances that the movements of these militias were only to be used against ISIS. If Trump had supported Kurdistan’s Independence Referendum and given the Kurds the very same arms that the US gave on a silver platter to Iraq, then Iran would not be making massive gains in Iraq.

It is critical to note that Abadi is just as bad for the US as Maliki is and to oppose our natural allies the Kurds merely to empower Abadi is a strategic mistake. Like Maliki, Abadi is also an Iranian proxy. Both Iraq and Syria are failed states that Iran seeks to preserve so that they can benefit from the resources, oil, water, etc. and to use as a launching pad against Israel and the GCC. In order to obtain its goals, the Iranian-controlled Iraqi government started the process of purging any reference to the Kurdistan region of Iraq, ethnically cleansing the Kurdish areas and is now holding them hostage for food, fuel, humanitarian supplies, etc. The Iraqi Supreme Court also is seeking to erase any Kurdish gains or rights. Is this the kind of government the US should support?

Nevertheless, Trump has chosen to take hostile positions towards the Kurds that even Obama would never take. While Obama also did not get that a united Iraq is a failed policy for the country was artificially created by colonial powers and Iraq would be more stable if it was broken up into three countries, at the very least, he would not tolerate American weapons being used to attack the Kurds in Kirkuk and other areas. Under his watch, the Kurds enjoyed autonomy and de facto independence. Now, even that is being robbed from them as Trump stands by and does nothing. Given this, Trump is not the Mr. Tough on Iran that he claims to be. To the contrary, he is enabling Iranian aggression across the Middle East.

 
  • Levi Gilbert

    It’s hard to believe Trums foreign policy advisors, military brass allow him to abandone the Kurds, a monumental mistake…

Author

Rachel Avraham
Rachel Avraham

Rachel Avraham is a senior media research analyst at the Center for Near East Policy Research and a correspondent for the Israel Resource News Agency. She is based in Israel and publishes in a variety of media outlets throughout the world. She is the author of "Women and Jihad: Debating Palestinian Female Suicide Bombings in the American, Israeli and Arab media." Avraham has an MA in Middle Eastern Studies from Ben-Gurion University and a BA in Government and Politics with minors in Jewish Studies and Middle Eastern Studies from the University of Maryland at College Park.

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