With regard to the Middle East, President Donald Trump inherited a mess. Yet, these days, things are looking up. For example, according to the Washington Post, “Nearly a third of territory reclaimed from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria since 2014 has been won in the past six months, due to new policies adopted by the Trump administration.” The Special Presidential Envoy to the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS, Brett McGurk, said in a lengthy overview of the situation that “About 78 percent of the territory they used to hold in Iraq, they can no longer operate in, and about 58 percent of the territory they used to hold in Syria, they can no longer operate in.” That’s impressive progress in a fairly short time.
Indeed, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi recently celebrated the complete removal of ISIS from Mosul, one of Iraq’s biggest cities. Perhaps the most encouraging aspect of this victory was that the United States only played a supporting role. Iraqi security forces, Iraqi militia and Kurdish Peshmerga were the primary boots on the ground. In other words, the United States isn’t acting like the world’s policeman, just a helpful ally.
Back in April, Trump bombed a Syrian airbase because Bashar al-Assad allegedly used chemical weapons. At the time, there were concerns President Trump would be more interventionist than he had let on during his campaign. Those concerns have since been put to rest. The bombing was a message to Assad and to the region: solve your own problems, because you don’t want us to solve them for you. Even at the time, with skepticism regarding the bombing, this blog noted that “Trump’s military strike was also intended to spur him [Assad] to go after ISIS with more commitment.” Fortunately, that’s all it was intended to do.
Everybody in Syria supposedly wants to get rid of ISIS, but for a while, nobody really wanted them gone. Under Obama, the United States wanted to use ISIS to get rid of Assad. On the other hand, Russia wanted to use ISIS to destroy anti-Assad rebel groups. Meanwhile, Turkey wanted to use ISIS to attack Kurds. Everyone had convenient reasons for having ISIS around. Then Trump showed up. Clearly, he’s serious about keeping his promise to destroy ISIS.
For instance, he canceled the reckless CIA program that armed and trained Syrian rebels. These rebels included known Islamic terrorists. After all, a British think-tank found that “about 60 percent of rebel fighters in Syria hold an Islamist extremist ideology” and ironically “about a third of them hold the same ideology as the Islamic State.” Not only has he stopped arming terrorists, but Trump has also let his generals run the show in the Middle East. In April, Fox News reported “U.S. military commanders are stepping up their fight against Islamist extremism as President Donald Trump’s administration urges them to make more battlefield decisions on their own.”
Case in point, in early April, the United States dropped a Massive Ordnance Air Blast bomb (MOAB) on an Islamic State underground network of tunnels in Afghanistan. President Trump didn’t even know about the weapon’s use until it had been dropped. The era of bureaucratic micromanagement is over. Trump wants results, and so far, the results speak for themselves.
Speaking of Afghanistan, the Afghan Ambassador to the United States made some very interesting remarks about Donald Trump. He said “The Obama administration was the most academic administration we have ever had to deal with but the Trump administration has been the most thoughtful and intelligent.” He summarized one conversation with Trump, recalling that “Trump continually asked ‘How can you win? What does Afghanistan need to win?’ in reference to our fight with terrorism. Trump wants to win. Sincerely. All the Obama administration wanted to do was not lose.” President Trump wants to untangle the United States from the Middle East, but in a way that doesn’t leave vacuums of power for Islamic terrorists to take control. He wants the United States to be a good ally, not the world’s policeman.
With this in mind, what will happen once ISIS is destroyed? For the United States, it will become primarily a diplomatic influence around the world, letting countries work out regional problems amongst themselves. Just look at the Qatar situation. Saudi Arabia, Egypt and other Arab countries cut diplomatic ties with Qatar, promising to restore them if Qatar shut down Al-Jazeera, reduced diplomatic relations with Iran, stopped military cooperation with Turkey inside their borders, and cut ties with the Muslim Brotherhood and other terrorist organizations. Around this time, the United States signed an agreement with Qatar to combat terrorism. It’s safe to say the United States isn’t Babylon the Great if it continues down this path.
For the Middle East, the eventual destruction of ISIS has other ramifications. For one, Iraq is beginning to return to the Arab sphere. The Saudi crown prince recently met with Iraq’s Moqtada Al-Sadr, a Shiite leader in Iraq. Just days after the meeting, Sadr called on the Iraqi government to disband Iran-backed militia forces. Put differently, there is growing unity among members of The Arab League. Considering the situations in Qatar and Iraq, two alliances are beginning to emerge in the Middle East: Russia, Iran and Turkey on one side, and Israel, the Arabs and the Kurds on the other.
In a previous blog, it was noted that “During the end times, the Antichrist will invade Israel (Daniel 11:31), he’ll have multiple battles with Egypt (Daniel 11:25, 42-43) and Jordan will resist him (Daniel 11:41). These countries are already beginning to come together.” On top of that, “it’s likely that when Assad is removed, his replacement isn’t going to make Israel and many of their Arab neighbors happy. It could very well lead to the Daniel 11:22 War.”
While the United States becomes more of a diplomatic influence in the Middle East, Russia’s military presence in the region will only become more unwelcome. Obviously, Syria is still in the Russian-Iranian orbit. This is a potential source of conflict down the road. Given their declining influence in Europe, due to the American energy boom, Russia won’t relinquish Syria without a fight. Get your popcorn ready.