Trump Shatters Obama’s Syrian Legacy
Comparably, Russia has also forced the United States to modify its Syrian strategy. In Syria, Russia backs Bashar al-Assad and has provided military force to support the regime and its crackdown on rebel groups in the area. Therefore, Russia holds immense power in determining the future of a post-ISIS Syria. The chief Russian military staff has announced that Russia will withdraw and diminish the number of troops in Syria by the end of the year, remarking that “[militarily] there is very little left to do…” In fact, Putin is hosting Rouhani, the president of Iran, and Erdogan, the president of Turkey, soon to discuss the postwar outlook for Syria. The meeting most notably excludes the United States, which has lost its role as a power broker in Syria. This comes despite U.S. efforts to coerce Assad to make concessions at United Nations led peace talks. Secretary of State Tillerson has echoed former Secretary of State Kerry in putting pressure on Russia to maintain the peace process in Syria. Foolishly, both leaders attempted to coerce Putin to change his strategy in Syria without realizing that Putin views Syria as a zero-sum game, allowing Russia to dictate the outcome of Syria.
Obama and Trump diverge significantly when discussing Syrian refugee policy. In January, President Trump signed an executive order banning Syrian refugees from entering the country. Although this plan was later disputed and rolled back, the Trump administration has maintained severe limitations and delays on admitting refugees from Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Yemen, amongst other nations. In nine of the 11 countries targeted, Islam is the primary religion, demonstrating that Trump’s Muslim ban lives on. On Monday, December 4th, the Supreme Court upheld the enforcement of this edition of Muslim ban, setting an unfortunate precedent. Overall, Trump has lowered the refugee cap to 45,000 for 2018, the lowest since 1980. Trump’s refugee policy clearly differs from the goal Obama set of admitting 110,000 total refugees and 10,000 Syrian refugees. Ironically, while Obama was in office, many criticized him for failing to take in more at a time when over 4 million were displaced from their homes. The Trump and Obama administration demonstrate clear differences in their priorities with refugees and civilians. Obama’s legacy in Syria may not be remembered kindly, but Trump’s approach will be shameful and full of regret.