Syria and Middle East in Trump’s foreign policy approach: interview with David des Roches

An American unclear political solution for Syria within a successful Trump’s foreign policy. David Des Roches, Senior Military Fellow at the Near East South Asia Center for Security Studies, has participated to the conference “The Great Rivalry: security and defense in the Middle East” hosted at the Center for American Studies in collaboration with the EU-Gulf Information Center and Nato Defense College, talking about the American interest and goals in the region. Energy security, freedom of navigation, non-proliferation (focusing on Iran and North Korea) and opposition to violent extremism are the four foreign-policy pillars of the Trump’s administration in Des Roches’s view.



Director Des Roches,is it possible to settle a political solution for the Syrian conflict?

I don’t think the West has a clear political solution. I think that the coalition between Assad, Russia, Hezbollah and Iran they are bent on a military strategy, and whenever they see something as a political process linked with a strategic path they exploited to step up to military balance.


What the next move by the Trump’s administration on Syria?

The issue is: the USA have allies, the YPG (People’s protection Unit) and the Syrian democratic forces that the can not be abandoned. So the USA don’t really have a strategic operation. We have recognized what it can not happened but we do not have a clear vision on what we want to achieve.


Future of Syria: a decision has already been found through the Ankara Pact between Putin, Erdogan and Rouhani?

I think that’s probably more likely to succeed that any of the Western/UN solutions. I’m afraid of that.


European Union: how Bruxelles can contribute to stop the Syrian crisis?

Well I think the European Union has been very judicious. There is all of Syria destroyed but they need to realize that the EU’s contribution should be humanitarian and should be directed to the civilians. The civilians that live in territories controlled by Syria and Russia should be left ot them.


Is it affirmable the American air strike pover Syria is a move external to the Trump’s isolationist foreign policy approach?

It is keeping with how Trump acted in the past and what basically does is to draw a line between his foreign policy decisions and that of the Obama’s administration that is considered a strong enemy in principle. The second element is that he does keeping with the American intentions of not allowing chemical weapons to be used. But it is not a game changer.


How do you consider the first fifteen months of Trump’s administration?

Not as bad as people thought it would be. The administration is still struggling but the situation is not a cataclysm as many critics were sure it would be.


Do you think Trump’s policies are achieving the America’s first goal?

It is not necessarily America First but there is a reorientation towards more traditional American foreign goals and advancing their interests. There has been some success: NATO members have increased their military committments, there has been a unilateral confrontation against Russian aggression on Europe, sanctions on Ukraine have remained strong. When you look at policies in Syria and Iraq there is not as much difference between Obama and Trump. I think we need time to find some time to find some differences between them.


Francesco Garibaldi

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