Saturday, November 12, 2016

President-Elect Donald Trump is likely to end support Syrian rebels

A member of the Syrian Defense Force fighting ISIS. New York Times/AFP/Getty.

President-Elect Donald Trump is likely to end US support for Syrian rebels fighting the regime. New York Times. Instead, Trump is going to focus on working with the regime and Russia in the fight against ISIS. The United States is actually supporting multiple rebel groups in Syria and Trump is more likely to end support for one group over the other. The Syrian Kurds and their Arab allies, who are currently attacking ISIS near Raqqa will probably continue to receive support. But the other rebel groups fighting inside of Aleppo and other parts of Syria are likely to be cut off. The United States has been supporting these rebels in their fight against the regime by giving them heavy weapons, most notably anti-tank missiles. Trump has long condemend the practice, stating that "we don't know who these people are" and pointing out that many of the rebels have worked with the al-Nusra Front, recently renamed Jabhat Fatah al-Sham, which has strong ties to the al-Qaeda terror organization. 

My Comment:
This is welcome news and I am glad that it appears that Donald Trump is going to keep his campaign promise on this issue. Indeed, Trump's policy on Syria is a major reason I voted for him, but far from the only one. I like this policy a lot better then Hillary's "overthrow Bashar al-Assad at all costs, even if it means nuclear war with Syria". She wanted a no-fly zone in Syria and to enforce it she would have had to have shot down Russian and Syrian jets and strike ground anti-air forces in Syria and destroy Russian ships in the Mediterranean. That would have resulted in World War III and the destruction of large chunks of civilization. 

Thankfully we won't be going to war with Russia over Syria anytime soon. In fact, they are probably welcoming this move with open arms. There is a very good chance that we will be working directly with Russia in Syria and instead of enemies we would be allies of a sort. I'm not sure how close our relationship will be. It may end up being an alliance of convenience, but it may be the start of something bigger. I have always loved the idea of turning our former enemies into friends. 

And Donald Trump is completely right. We don't really know who the people are fighting Bashar al-Assad. We know that a lot of them have connections to terrorist organizations. The former al-Nusra Front is a major terrorist organization, and if it wasn't for ISIS, they would be considered a major threat. Indeed, many think that al-Nusra is major threat, including the Russians.

The real question is how closely these rebel groups are aligned to al-Nusra. Many of these groups are with al-Nusra because al-Nusra fights and they have had more success then any of the other rebel groups except for ISIS. Others are with al-Nusra because they agree with them ideologically. And some of these groups started out with the first motivation and ended up with the second motivation. It's extremely hard to tell one group from the other and I would argue that either motivation is disqualifying for US support. Working with al-Qaeda allied groups should be a death sentence, even if they are fighting people we don't like. 

If we had continued on the same path and the Syrian regime was overthrown, the country would likely have been taken over by al-Nusra and ISIS. Either result would have been a complete disaster. All religious minorities, including Shia Muslims, Durze, Alawites, Christians and other groups would be wiped out and the area would be used as a major base for terrorism

That isn't going to happen now, thanks to Donald Trump. What is going to happen? Well possibly nothing that wasn't going to happen anyways. It sure looks like the regime is going to capture Aleppo, and with it in regime hands, the rebel movement will likely wither and die. The only major groups outside of Aleppo are either al-Qaeda supporters or the Kurds and their allies in the north. It's very possible that all of this will be decided long before Trump is sworn in. And I think that would have been true no matter who was going to be president. The only thing that could save the rebels would be massive airstrikes against the regime and perhaps the deployment of ground troops, but that is not going to happen now. 

There is a question about whether or not this is the morally correct thing to do. Some would argue that we should keep supporting the rebels because by going back on our word now would be a betrayal. I would argue against that because we don't owe loyalty to people that betray us. By throwing their lot in with al-Nusra and other Jihadist groups, these rebels lost any right to complain when we cut them off. Assuming that any of them really are moderate anymore, my thought is that all of them were wiped out a long time ago. 

What about all the deaths that will occur in Aleppo and other parts of the country? Shouldn't we do something about that? I would argue that by ending the battle of Aleppo and allowing the Syrian regime to finally defeat the rebels, we would be saving many more lives than allowing the regime to fall, or even worse, have the war to continue. Even though al-Assad is a bad person, who will likely kill his enemies, allowing him to stay in power is probably the best solution for the country. 

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