Trump’s Syria Policy: Obama 2.0

By Shep Gerszberg

After eight years, the Syrian Civil War is more complex than ever. More and more parties enter the fray every month and, to be perfectly honest, part of that is the United States’s fault. It began with President Obama ignoring his own red lines and giving all parties free reign to do whatever they pleased in the region.

When President Trump was elected, I had hoped that things would change. That we would do more to fix this increasingly chaotic region, that we would back up our allies, that we would create an outcome that would lead to stability and eventually western aligned leaders in power.

This has not happened at this point and the U.S. should be ashamed of themselves. Trump should be ashamed of himself. He has abandoned our allies to their own devices, cowardly shied away from properly condemning those who should be condemned, and allowed our enemies to create footholds in Syria with little to no response.

When Trump took office, he said that our allies would not feel abandoned again after an Obama administration which seemed obsessed with conceding to our enemies in the name of peace while ignoring or actively harming our allies. He said that our allies will find that America is once again ready to lead.

Where is that leadership, where is that commitment to not abandon our allies now? The Kurds have been one of our closest allies in the fight against ISIS since the beginning, doing major work, if not most the work in getting ISIS out of Iraq, and then managing to kick ISIS and gain control over a major portion of Syria, the Kurds have been one of the most effective fighting forces against ISIS.

And how to we repay them? We let Turkey rout our allied Kurdish forces out of Afrin, dealing our allies a massive blow and placing the Kurdish majority city under the rule of those who hate them.

Not only that, but we have barely criticized Turkey for their actions: for attacking our allies; for defacing Kurdish monuments in Afrin, a show of disrespect for the Kurdish population of Afrin, not for Erdogan’s assault on democratic institutions in his country. We have stood silent and watched, giving only token proclamations of disapproval.

We abandoned our Kurdish allies to avoid offending a nation who has consistently shown themselves to be uninterested in acting like an ally. We conceded to an enemy in the name of peace while ignoring or actively harming an ally. Trump’s foreign policy on Syria is the Obama foreign policy all over again. Where Obama had the Iran deal, Trump has the abandonment of the Kurds. But that is not the only mistake Trump has made.

Hezbollah and Iran have created strong footholds in southern Syria, right on the Israeli border. These nations are our enemies and they have already begun attacking Israel using those positions with the recent drone incursion by Iran.

Yet, what do we do about it? We do nothing. No added sanctions, no warnings of military strikes, we sit back and let Israel handle it. We allow these enemies to keep these footholds. We abandon our allies in the name of peace, in the name of avoiding war. Well what’s the point of allies if we don’t back them up when they are under threat?

We have given Russia and the Assad regime free reign to control Syria for too long. The way things are going Assad will reclaim lost territories and remain in power, this is unacceptable. It’s time for the U.S. to get involved. It is time for us to attack our enemies and back up our friends and allies. It is time for us to support Kurdish troops and eventually Kurdish independence, because Turkey seems utterly uninterested in a just solution for that issue.

When the Kurds try to build their own state elsewhere, they protest. When the Kurds try to participate in the Turkish political system, they are imprisoned and stripped of their democratic rights. It is time for us to get involved, put boots on the ground, push Turkey back, oust Iran and Hezbollah, remove Assad, and bring stability, or at least, ensure that the war is going our way and not the way of our enemies.

We need to set the stage for the eventual resolution of the conflict, to ensure that when the dust settles, it is our allies, not Russia, Assad, Turkey, Hezbollah, and Iran, on top. We need to act. We need to be a leader again. It is time for us to stop conceding to our enemies in the name of a non-existent peace and to start backing up our allies.

Trump promised a different foreign policy approach to Obama’s. It is time for him to buck up and put his money where his mouth is. Otherwise, his Syria policy will continue to be the same kind of failure Obama’s was.

About Shep Gerszberg 11 Articles
Shep Gerszberg is currently an intern at the Jewish Policy Center. Aside from The National Discourse, his work has appeared in Kol HaBirah and other outlets. He has also interned with the Simon Wiesenthal Center and the New York State Affordable Housing Commission. He is a junior at the George Washington University studying international affairs, Middle East studies, and conflict resolution, specifically, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the Afghanistan conflict, and the Pakistan-India conflict. He can be reached at shepgerszberg@gmail.com.