Gregory Aftandilian is a lecturer at the Pardee School of Global Studies at Boston University and is a former U.S. State Department Middle East analyst.

  • Trump unlikely to get mired in Syrian conflict , On: Sun, 23 Apr 2017

  • Trump’s bet on Palestinian-Israeli deal likely to be mugged by reality, On: Sun, 16 Apr 2017

  • Trump administration’s message to anti-ISIS coalition sounds familiar, On: Sun, 16 Apr 2017

  • The mood in Washington about Sisi is mixed , On: Sun, 09 Apr 2017

  • Trump’s immigration ban evokes a dark period in US history, On: Sun, 12 Feb 2017

  • Trump’s comments about Iraqi oil are dangerous , On: Sun, 05 Feb 2017

  • Trump’s temptation to pursue the strongman option in Libya , On: Sun, 22 Jan 2017

  • Trump’s choice for Israel envoy likely to be resisted, On: Sun, 25 Dec 2016

  • Much of Trump’s Syria policy likely to be coordinated with Russia, On: Sun, 11 Dec 2016

  • Trump’s extreme views likely to be checked by system, On: Sun, 04 Dec 2016

  • Obama’s strategy against ISIS looks successful but comes at a high price, On: Sun, 27 Nov 2016

  • Trump’s victory likely to improve US-Egyptian ties , On: Sun, 20 Nov 2016

  • Trump’s outlandish foreign policy claims unlikely to boost his standing, On: Sun, 23 Oct 2016

  • Reconstruction costs of damaged Iraqi cities another looming crisis, On: Sun, 23 Oct 2016

  • US officials unable to deal with Syrian conflict , On: Sun, 16 Oct 2016

  • Large US aid deal for Israel helps shield Clinton from Republican attacks, On: Sun, 02 Oct 2016

  • Demographics to favour Clinton in US presidential race, On: Sun, 25 Sep 2016

  • Syrian Kurds’ calculations, between Turkey and US , On: Sun, 18 Sep 2016

  • US-Saudi relations in rough waters , On: Sun, 18 Sep 2016

  • Ethnic tensions rise as the battle for Mosul looms , On: Sun, 28 Aug 2016

  • Obama’s Russian gambit getting flak from all sides , On: Sun, 14 Aug 2016

  • Egypt’s reaction to Turkish coup attempt scuttles prospects of rapprochement , On: Sun, 07 Aug 2016

  • Trump’s stands go against Republican foreign policy positions, On: Sun, 24 Jul 2016

  • US officials frustrated over lone-wolf attacks, On: Sun, 17 Jul 2016

  • Obama faces growing criticism on Syria, On: Sun, 03 Jul 2016

  • Trump’s bigotry leading to drop in the polls, On: Sun, 19 Jun 2016

  • Saudi-Iran tensions show no sign of abating , On: Sun, 12 Jun 2016

  • Cairo pursues a different tactic with EgyptAir crash, On: Sun, 05 Jun 2016

  • Sykes-Picot is about Western opposition to national aspirations , On: Sun, 29 May 2016

  • Hawkish roles reversed in US campaign , On: Sun, 22 May 2016

  • US lacks new policy ideas for Iraq, On: Sun, 15 May 2016

  • Pentagon considers troop reduction in Sinai, causing Mideast concern, On: Sun, 08 May 2016

  • US decision to send more special operations forces to Syria raises concerns at home , On: Sun, 08 May 2016

  • Obama’s worldview at odds with Riyadh’s, On: Sun, 01 May 2016

  • Mixed signals from US Congress on aid to Egypt , On: Sun, 24 Apr 2016

  • No clear winners in Yemen war , On: Sun, 17 Apr 2016

  • If Syria talks fail, US might support partition , On: Sun, 17 Apr 2016

  • Ted Cruz’s extreme views stir concern , On: Fri, 08 Apr 2016

  • Obama’s budget request on MENA is ISIS-focused, On: Fri, 18 Mar 2016

  • Trump unlikely to get mired in Syrian conflict

    Trump is likely to concentrate US military activity on ISIS, which he has done since taking office.

    No appetite for war. Demonstrators participate in a protest against the American missile strike in Syria in Union Square in New York, on April 7. (AFP)

    2017/04/23 Issue: 103 Page: 9

    US President Donald Trump’s order to strike a Syrian government airbase in response to the regime’s alleged chemical weapons attack on Syrian civilians has given him a slight bounce in opinion polls and earned him unusual praise from the Washington foreign policy establishment. However, this strike does not change his overall strategy of concentrating on the Islamic State (ISIS) and avoiding regime change in Syria.

    After more than two-and-a-half months of missteps and sagging poll numbers, Trump seems to have found his groove by decid­ing to bomb the Syrian airbase from where it is believed Presi­dent Bashar Assad’s forces launched the April 4 chemical attack that killed and wounded many Syrian civilians.

    Trump’s decision to fire 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles at the airbase on April 7 was overkill, to say the least, but he wanted to show in a very graphic way that he was the “anti-Obama.” Trump accused the former president of weak leadership for failing to follow through on his own red line when the Assad regime earlier reportedly used chemical weapons.

    Trump also appeared to be genuinely moved by the sight of dead and injured Syrian children. This human side to Trump (often lost in the rough and tumble — and nastiness — of the presiden­tial campaign) showed that he was a man of some compassion and signalled to Assad that he would not tolerate inhumane actions against civilians.

    Trump genuinely appears to be a caring father and grandfather and this sentiment probably influenced his decision to respond to the chemical attack when he saw images of grieving Syrian parents weeping over their children.

    Perhaps more importantly, Trump wanted to show that “making America great again” — his oft-repeated campaign slogan — means that he will act decisively and unpredictably to underscore that “there is a new sheriff in town,” to borrow a phrase from the Wild West.

    Many of Trump’s critics in Congress, Democrats and Republicans alike, approved of his strike on the Syrian airbase. Even his major Republican nemesis, US Senator John McCain, R-Arizona, who is chairman of the Armed Services Committee, said Trump’s decision to strike the airbase “showed strength” and compared it to the policies of former President Ronald Reagan.

    The American public signalled its support, too. A poll by CBS News indicated that 57% of American respondents said they approved of the strike.

    However, the United States remains wary of getting bogged down in Syria. The same CBS poll showed that almost 70% of poll participants said Trump needs to get authorisation from Congress before he takes any further action against the Assad regime and only 18% of respondents said they want Washington to send ground troops to Syria.

    Reports from across the United States said even Trump support­ers who said they like that he acted in a tough and decisive manner in response to the Syrian chemical attack do not want him to send large numbers of US troops to Syria for regime change. They do not want to see a repeat of the 2003 Iraq war that most Americans have come to say was a mistake.

    During the presidential cam­paign, Trump often railed against the Iraq invasion and called it a “dumb” war that destabilised the Middle East. Trump has enough political sense to know that if he sent large numbers of US troops into Syria, he would lose the support of the very people who put him into the White House.

    Trump, despite his negative views of Assad, is likely to concentrate US military activity on ISIS, which he has done since taking office. Although he has sent at least 500 more US special forces to Syria to support anti- ISIS forces there, he is likely to stay clear of any major involve­ment that would involve regular US troops. This strategy, which started under President Barack Obama, might lead to the defeat of ISIS and the capture of its self-declared capital of Raqqa in Syria by the end of 2017.

    Dealing with Assad is likely to come much later and probably through negotiations rather than bombs or troops.

    Editors' Picks

    The Arab Weekly Newspaper reaches Western & Arabic audience that are influential as well as being affluent.

    From Europe to the Middle East,and North America, The Arab Weekly talks to opinion formers and influential figures, providing insight and comment on national, international and regional news through the focus of Arabic countries and community.

    Published by Al Arab Publishing House

    Publisher and Group Executive Editor: Haitham El-Zobaidi, PhD

    Editor-in-Chief: Oussama Romdhani

    Deputy Editor-in-Chief: Dalal Saoud

    Senior Editor: John Hendel

    Chief Copy Editors: Jonathan Hemming and Richard Pretorius

    Analysis Section Editor: Ed Blanche

    Opinion Section Editor: Claude Salhani

    East/West Section Editor: Mark Habeeb

    Levant Section Editor: Jamal J. Halaby

    Gulf Section Editor: Mohammed Alkhereiji

    Society and Travel Sections Editor: Samar Kadi

    Senior Correspondents:

    Mahmud el-Shafey (London)

    Lamine Ghanmi (Tunis)


    Saad Guerraoui (Casablanca)

    Dunia El-Zobeidi (London)

    Roua Khlifi (Tunis)

    Rasha Elass - Thomas Seibert (Washington)

    Published by Al Arab Publishing House

    Contact editor

    Subscription & Advertising:

    Tel 020 3667 7249

    Mohamed Al Mufti

    Marketing & Advertising Manager

    Tel (Main) +44 20 6702 3999

    Direct: +44 20 8742 9262

    Al Arab Publishing House

    Kensington Centre

    66 Hammersmith Road

    London W14 8UD, UK

    Tel: (+44) 20 7602 3999

    Fax: (+44) 20 7602 8778

    Follow Us
    © The Arab Weekly, All rights reserved