Speaking to The Wall Street Journal, a leader of a Syrian rebel umbrella organization expresses optimism towards the incoming Donald Trump administration, hoping that the White House will now assume the “logical role of the U.S. as the defender of democracy.”
Riad Hijab, the head of the High Negotiations Committee, contrasts this to the Obama administration, which he blames for “all this tragic suffering, hundreds of thousands of martyrs, millions forced to leave their homes.”
“We hope that the new U.S. administration will play the normal and logical role of the U.S. as the defender of democracy that helps people gain their rights,” Hijab states, arguing that the ouster of dictator Bashar al-Assad is key to a peaceful future for Syria.
Hijab confirms that his group, which represents a number of moderate Syrian militias currently fighting Assad, has reached out to the Trump transition team in the hope of cooperating on the ground in Syria.
Of President Obama, Hijab has little positive to say. “History will never forgive Obama for what he has done to the Syrian people… [Obama] abandoned the Syrian people and gave Bashar the green light.”
The opposition appears especially pleased with President-elect Trump’s language towards Iran. “When we hear that Mr. Trump is going to cancel the nuclear deal with Iran, the deal through which Iran has managed to control Syria, it means that Iran’s right to kill Syrians will be canceled too,” Syrian Air Force Brig. Gen. Hassan al-Zoubi tells The Wall Street Journal.
As a presidential candidate, Trump repeatedly insisted on American foreign policy geared towards curbing Iranian influence abroad, vowing that Iran’s use of U.S. nationals as hostages for ransom would not “happen if I’m president” on Twitter and threatening to “[shoot] out of the water” any Iranian vessels that threaten U.S. military assets in the Middle East.
On Syria, Trump repeatedly asserted that eradicating the Islamic State, and not Bashar al-Assad, must be the first priority. “I’m saying, ‘Why are we knocking ISIS, and yet at the same time, we’re against Assad?’ Let them fight, take over the remnants, but more importantly, let Russia fight ISIS, if they want to fight them,” Trump said in a September 2015 interview. “Let Syria and ISIS fight. Why are we — why do we care? Let ISIS and Syria fight. And let Russia, they’re in Syria already, let them fight ISIS. Look, I don’t want ISIS. ISIS is bad. They’re evil.”
Trump’s support of letting Assad use his forces with minimal intervention appears contingent on Assad fighting the Islamic State, which has largely not been the case. While ISIS maintains its “capital” in southern Raqqa, the Syrian government forces have committed human rights atrocities for months on end in Aleppo, a city hundreds of miles away with no known ISIS presence. Assad’s government appears concerned that Trump will take a harder stance against Damascus once in office, Reuters notes, as they plan to kill all opposition forces in Aleppo before January 20. “The Russians want to complete the operation before Trump takes power,” an unidentified senior Syrian official told Reuters last week.
Assad has, meanwhile, personally reached out to Trump in his first interview since the U.S. election. “If he is going to fight the terrorists, of course we are going to be ally, natural ally in that regard with the Russian [sic], with the Iranian [sic], with many other countries who wanted to defeat the terrorists,” Assad said in a November interview.
This has not discouraged many of the ethnic and religious minorities who are working to eradicate the Islamic State terror group from their homelands. Kurdish, Christian, and Yazidi leaders have all expressed optimism for the new Trump administration. “We hope the president-elect will increase support to the Peshmerga and the Kurdish people as the most reliable, effective and trusted ally in the war on terrorism,” Masrour Barzani, chief of the Kurdistan Regional Government Security Council in Iraq, said last month. Assyrian Christian militia leader Emanuel Khoshaba Youkhana reached out to Trump to “assure President-elect Trump that a strong and viable Assyrian Christian community in the Middle East will be a stalwart friend and steadfast ally of the United States.”
“The Christians in Iraq and Syria are hopeful President-elect Trump and his incoming administration will help secure peace throughout the region for all people and for the sake of humanity,” Syriac Catholic Patriarch Ignatius Ephrem Joseph III Younan said in a statement following the election.
“We hope that the new United States administration will uphold the rights of oppressed religious minorities,”Prince Tahseen Saeed Ali, the global leader of the Yazidis, said in a letter obtained by Breitbart News following the election. “[Yazidis] are thankful for the United States efforts thus far to protect persecuted minorities and we hope that this continues and increases.”