Crises in Syria and Iraq; US Challenges and Strategies in Facing Them

One of the major criticisms raised by opponents of former US President Barack Obama’s Middle East policy were concerned with Washington’s passive behaviors and inactivity or hesitancy and confusion in making decisions and taking action in the face of developments in Iraq and Syria. Currently, the US administration is seeking a comprehensive strategy for management of developments in the region. For Donald Trump, a new strategy should reject any possibility of "concession or negotiation” with threat factors- most notably Daesh (ISIS or ISIL)- and emphasize the need for "defeating” them on the battlefield. In this approach, Daesh is considered a direct threat to the US security and national interests and a major part of Washington’s policies in the region are focused on how to confront this terrorist group.

At present, the US Department of Defense is developing a comprehensive strategy to continue fighting terrorism in Iraq and Syria. The strategy seems to underline boosting the capabilities and working for swift logistical enhancement of pro-US forces in Syria. The new strategy, focusing more on realities on the ground in Iraq and Syria, seeks to fulfill the United States’ long-term security needs.

In Trump’s view, what will guarantee the United States’ future status as a defining player in the international system is "maximizing the power” of the US. Hence, one of the most visible characteristics of US foreign policy during his term will be focusing on power. The missile attack on an airbase in Syria, US airstrike in Afghanistan, setting up missile defense systems in South Korea, and enhancing US naval presence in the Sea of Japan are all measures that can be viewed as attempts in line with this policy. Iraq and then Syria constitute the most immediate priority of the United States’ Middle East policy under the current circumstances. It seems that what matters more to Washington than defeating Daesh in the region is regaining the superior and defining role of the US in the Middle East. The Trump administration believes that the former administration’s policies have led to the waning of the US power and its effective position in sensitive regions such as the Middle East, and that now the presence of Daesh in Iraq and Syria has provided a good opportunity for amending or changing the previous policies in order to revive the United States’ superior status in the region. That is why reviving and strengthening the elements of the US military, intelligence and economic power is put high on the Trump administration’s agenda.

It seems that in the coming years, Iraq and Syria will turn into a scene of US muscle-flexing and Washington’s attempts to regain its previous position in the Middle East through amending old orders or creating new regional orders.