So GOP candidate Donald Trump has started talking about his vision for US foreign policy, and it might involve sending in ground troops to deal with the Islamic State. Trump is far from the only one who thinks that might be necessary one day, but in a couple of areas he maybe goes a bit further than most area analysts would think is wise.
Right now, NATO strategy for handling ISIS is based around selective strikes against their leadership, close air support in areas they seem to be making gains, then logistic backing for proxy ground forces. The main opposition on the ground right now is the array of Kurdish groups; they’re highly effective light infantry and, with enough support, they have a pretty good chance of rolling ISIS back to the point where the Iraqi and Syrian armies can defeat them. There’s no guarantee of that of course, and a lot of it depends on us giving them enough support – right now we’re not – and if ISIS survives its local enemies then we probably are going to have to commit ground troops to make them go away.
Where Trump’s plans get controversial is that he seems to be focusing heavily on Iraq’s oil as a strategic goal. He’s absolutely right that a key to defeating the islamists is taking away the oil wealth that funds them. What’s maybe not so smart is suggesting that Iraq gets “something” from their oil reserves, but that the USA appropriates a lot of the income to support US troops and veterans. That’s not going to be acceptable to any potential allies, either regional ones or within NATO, and there’s no way in hell the Iraqi government is going to agree to it either. If you’re aiming to stoke up anti-US resentment in the Middle East, this would be about the best way to do it.
Other issues Trump brought up in a highly informative interview with NBC include US support for Saudi Arabia. In the past he’s called Saudi the world’s worst funder of terrorism, and that’s pretty much the case. While the Saud family don’t often directly fund actual terrorist groups, they spend a fortune on building mosques and religious schools to spread Wahhabi Islam, and those schools and mosques become the extremists’ main recruiting grounds. The simple fact is no Saudi-financed mosque or madrassah anywhere in the world is above suspicion. Trump also correctly identifies that the main reason the USA supports Saudi Arabia is because of oil. He suggests the Saudis should pay the USA for this support. That’s probably not realistic, but right now the Gulf states – following the Saudi lead – are holding oil prices artificially low to squeeze US shale oil producers out of the market. This isn’t acceptable from a supposed ally.
Of course, one reason Saudi Arabia has a lot of political pull in Washington is that they’re seen as the major regional counterbalance to Iranian influence. That used to be Iraq’s job but, oops, we done messed that up. So now the Saudis have the job of containing Iran. The big question that nobody’s asking is whether containing Iran is really that important. Trump thinks they’re going to take over part of the world and start a nuclear war, but Iran hasn’t shown any signs of expansionism since the end of the Greco-Persian Wars 2,500 years ago. If anything, we should probably be backing Iran as a counterbalance to the Sunni extremists who’re actually a threat to us.
Overall, Trump’s views on the Middle East are a mix of common sense and profound confusion, but what’s encouraging is that at least he’s looking at the region in more depth than a lot of presidential candidates do. Too many politicians get tunnel vision on the Israel/Palestine sideshow and forget about both shores of the Gulf, where the real dangers – and opportunities – lie.
Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.