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The Syrian rebellion: The first of Trump's many victims? Open in fullscreen

Sam Hamad

The Syrian rebellion: The first of Trump's many victims?

Trump put Islamophobia front and centre of his campaign [AFP]

Date of publication: 9 November, 2016

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Comment: In many ways, Trump befits our times, not as a solution to the great problems of our age, but rather as a symptom of them, writes Sam Hamad

Even as I write the words, they have barely sunk in: Donald Trump will be the 45th president of the USA. 

It's one of the great political shocks of our lifetime, yet perhaps it ought not to have been since we live in an era where the world seems to be spinning ever more out of control. 

It has been merely a few months since the world was shocked when voters in the UK defied the odds, and the polls, and voted to leave the European Union, sending markets reeling and making the lives of so many people even more precarious.  

Before that we had 9/11, which in a few hours changed the world forever, the Iraq war, followed by the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, as well as, some would argue most centrally, the lightning fast, dizzying upheavals of the Arab Spring, especially the genocidal war unleashed by Bashar al-Assad in Syria. 

Now we have Donald Trump, a hard right demagogue, trust fund billionaire, reality TV star in control of the world's greatest economic and military power. The world over the past few decades has been at its most unpredictable – you'd be foolish to think that all of these phenomena are unrelated, though the connection is far from linear or simple.

Trump is in many ways a president who befits our times, but not as a solution to the great problems of our age, but rather as a symptom of them. His triumph is yet another complication - a great anteing up, in what seems to be a global death spiral. 

If you, like I do, believe that the situation in Syria is the central question of our age in terms of the concrete consequences it has on global politics, then Donald Trump's ascendency to the White House ought to send a shiver down your spine. 

Trump doesn't even recognise the existence of the Syrian rebels, let alone their validity as a revolutionary force

Obama's policy on Syria has been disastrous and has - to put it kindly - indirectly facilitated the genocide and ethnic cleansing that rages throughout that ex-country.

Meanwhile, Trump is an active supporter of the forces carrying out the genocide and ethnic cleansing, especially Putin's Russia, a world force that Trump "admires". He ought to do more than admire it, given he might not have won the election without its help

But, judging from his rhetoric, Trump will repay them in kind. While the far-from-perfect Clinton advocated an end to Obama's appeasement policy when it came to Russia and Iran in Syria - such as by advocating increasing support for the Syrian rebels and implementing no-bombing zones that would hasten the end of the regime - Trump sees in Russia, Iran and Assad as allies against the Islamic State group (IS). 

In fact, during the second presidential debate, when asked about his position on Syria Trump said "I don't like Assad at all… but Assad is killing ISIS… Russia is killing ISIS… Iran is killing ISIS." 

This is of course precisely what all the three of those forces - which have killed far more Syrian civilians and Syrian rebels than they ever have IS fighters - want you to believe, and something Trump has no problem continually repeating.

A realignment of US policy away from NATO and towards Russia could very much be on the cards

In this respect, Trump's policy on Syria will likely see him either come to some arrangement with Russia. This could take the form of joint US and Russian action in Syria, or it will see him, as US president, give his blessing to Russia having complete domain over Syria. 

A realignment of US policy away from NATO and towards Russia could very much be on the cards under a Trump presidency. Trump is on the record stating that he might recognise illegally occupied Crimea as Russian territory, as well as saying that the US under him would not necessarily come to the defence of NATO allies threatened by Russia.

For Syria, this suggested realignment manifests as Trump seeing every event in the region through the convenient (if you're Russia, Iran and Assad) lens of IS.  It's perfectly true that Trump's IS-centric view of Syria is not much different to Obama's, but the key difference is that Trump doesn't even recognise the existence of the Syrian rebels, let alone their validity as a revolutionary force. 

If even the allegedly progressive, pragmatic Obama sneeringly wrote off the Syrian rebels as "farmers and pharmacists" in order to justify his disastrous policy of ignoring them, Trump has explicitly stated that Assad "looks better than the other side [the Syrian rebels]".

Of course the fact that they're Muslims means that Trump is unlikely to even countenance recognising them.

And this is one of the most chilling aspects of Trump's politics. Similar to the far right in Europe, Trump has put Islamophobia front and centre of his campaign over the past few years. He has sought in particular to demonise Syrian refugees – it was in this context that he called for a "shutdown" of Muslims coming to the United States, as well as constantly linking them to terrorism and other racist tropes relating to alleged "Islamic" barbarism. 

Every fascist, every racist and every tyrant, including Putin and Assad, will be celebrating Trump's victory

In this respect, one of the most poisonous and politically charged pieces of cognitive dissonance that was doing the rounds during the presidential campaign, was that Clinton was the war candidate due to her support for Syrian rebels and no-bombing zones and, remarkably, that Trump was some kind of peace candidate. 

In truth, Trump is overtly militaristic when it comes to Syria and favours intervention, just not intervention against Assad - he has called for 30,000 US troops to be sent to Syria to fight IS, as well as advocating "bombing the shit" out of IS-held areas, including civilian ones. 

If Russia was to begin its inevitable assault on Free Aleppo tomorrow, killing even more Syrian civilians and ethnically cleansing many more through making them refugees, you can bet anything that a President, or President-elect Trump would not even issue a rhetorical condemnation. 

To add insult to injury, he'd then demonise those very same refugees as potential terrorists and a threat to "American values", fuelling the hatred that mobilises his support base.

For him, Russia is "fighting ISIS" and ought to be, at the very least, left alone to do so - combined with this is his lack of recognition for the Syrian opposition, you would do well to expect that the Syrian rebellion is one of the first of many victims of a Trump presidency. 

Hillary Clinton offered democratic Syrians a slight ray of hope with her rhetoric about deepening support for the Syrian rebels against Assad, and implementing no-bombing zones, but with Trump's victory hopes of this are now completely lost.

Every fascist, every racist and every tyrant, including Putin and Assad, will be celebrating Trump's victory. And they are right to do so. One of their guys is soon to be in the White House. 


Sam Hamad is an independent Scottish-Egyptian activist and writer.

Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The New Arab, its editorial board or staff. 

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