Donald Trump is now the President of the United States — which means that he is also the Commander-in-Chief of the United States Armed Forces and he is utilizing that authority to devastating effect, making an almost immediate impact on US foreign policy in particular in the Middle East and North Africa. Thus, Americans and the rest of the world alike are all asking similar questions: Where will the next US intervention be? That’s a question worth asking and an analysis worth doing. We’ll examine the next possible large-scale theatre of war for the United States Armed Forces under a new Administration evidently unafraid to utilize both words and deeds.
More Death From Above
In the two months that President Trump has commanded the most powerful military force in the history of the world, we’ve seen a 432% increase in the use of drones, an average of one strike every day as of March 7th, the focus — according to the report from the Council of Foreign Relations — appears to be on Yemen, Somalia and Pakistan. While the previous administration also conducted countless drone strikes in all three of those countries, the Trump administration evidently has kicked things up a notch.
Whether or not Trump’s utilization of drones as weapons-of-war will continue at such a high frequency remains to be seen, but an almost-immediate uptick in their deployment isn’t a promising sign, and shows that Trump’s campaign rhetoric which sounded very isolationist, militarily-speaking, was likely all hot air.
Speaking of Yemeni operations, one of the most notable strikes under the new President came on the night of January 29th, when he authorized a raid on a compound thought to house the head of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, Qasim al-Raymi, went catastrophically wrong. Among the dead in Yemen were 20-or-so civilians, including an eight-year-old girl (the daughter of Anwar al-Awlaki) and a US Navy SEAL, and a $75M Osprey aircraft. Since that unmitigated disaster of a first action, the Trump administration has reportedly carried out several other airstrikes, and continues to arm Saudi Arabia, lifting a block imposed by the previous administration.
Prediction: The Trump Administration will likely continue with it’s use of both conventional airstrikes and drone operations to combat the AQAP presence in Yemen, however, the greatest impact will not be felt by Al-Qaeda, but instead by the civilians of Yemen — as it is a little difficult to carve out a peaceful political solution when you’re not sure where the next Hellfire will land.
Before President Trump took office, the US policy towards Syria had been to take a back-seat, while simultaneously maintaining a firm foothold. From conducting airstrikes as part of Operation Inherent Resolve, to arming Syrian rebel groups — including the most unsavoury of characters among those groups. However that all changed on a dime, when under the direction of the new President, the US sent 400 Marines into Syria to partner with Kurdish YPG forces in the fight against ISIS. Although 400 isn’t an alarming number, it represented another increase in US military activity under President Trump. Furthermore, it was announced on March 15th that the Pentagon is considering sending another one thousand troops to Syria to help combat the Islamic State and drive them from their de-facto capital of Raqqa.
Currently: On Thursday this week, Donald Trump authorized airstrikes on a Syrian Government base in response to alleged chemical attacks that killed dozens, before investigations had even taken place. The ICRC has now dubbed this an “international armed conflict” and what experts believe to be a full invasion and pretext for war.
America’s history with Iran is long and tumultuous, to say the least. From Revolution-enablement in the 1970s, to a significant step towards peace in a little under forty years with the Nuclear Agreement in 2015. President Donald Trump has seemingly taken a match and some gasoline to US-Iranian relations. Whilst on the campaign trail, Trump threatened to tear up the Iranian nuclear agreement “on day one” (the deal remains officially in tact, though it is looking more in tatters with each passing week).
Beginning on January 27th, President Donald Trump would sign of his first Executive Orders — that being the infamous travel ban, which imposed 90-day travel restrictions on individuals from seven different Muslim-majoirity countries: Iraq, Iran, Syria, Libya, Yemen, Sudan and Somalia.
Seeing their inclusion in that list, Iran reacted as you’d expect — not well — banning US citizens from travelling to their country, in a tit-for-tat move. One day later (January 29th), Iran conducts a ballistic missile test — a clear violation of their end of the nuclear agreement. Two days following the test, UN Ambassador Nikki Haley responds to the missile test, calling it “irresponsible” and promising to “be loud” with any reprisals by the United States. Then, President Trump says that “nothing is off the table” with regards to Iran — and on February 3rd, imposes additional sanctions.
Thankfully, it’s been (largely) all quiet on the Middle Eastern front between the US and Iran since early February. However, the two nations still have roles to play in Syria, and may still yet clash again over the nuclear agreement.
Prediction: It is my hope that the United States foresees the opportunity that it has with Iran — a nation that is seemingly attempting to shirk the old guard of Khomeinist theocracy and come in from the cold — evident, at least with the former US administration — following a US visit by Hassan Rouhani in 2013, and then the signing of the nuclear treaty in 2015. It is imperative that the Trump administration attempt to cool things off with Tehran, despite the early signs of diplomatic meltdown.
It seems obvious to all that war should always be a last resort. While we shouldn’t necessarily judge the Administration too soon — it seems evident to me that Donald Trump’s lack of self-control (albeit mainly within the realm of 160 Twitter characters) and his apparent willingness to use the overwhelming might of the US military is a representation of a different sort of approach to US foreign policy than from the previous eight years — that sort of undiplomatic approach, at least on the face of it, could prove costly for America — specifically for the sons and daughters of America who may yet find themselves embroiled in an avoidable conflict. Had only their Commander-in-Chief had a bit more brains, tact and diplomatic skills.
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