The Washington Post’s leaks about Donald Trump’s decision to discontinue CIA aid for the "moderate Syrian opposition" will most likely be used by opponents of the U.S. president for another attack on him. By reporting this step, the Western press has already accused the head of the White House of "surrendering Syrian fighters with a dictatorship," and he is also being accused of unjustified concessions to Russia. Although, Donald Trump’s decision is indeed logical and feeds into the narrative of pragmatic foreign policy which was announced during his election campaign but is currently far from being implemented in all the spheres.
The program of assistance to the Syrian opposition, which was passed under Barack Obama in 2013, is a classic example of a completely different foreign policy — not pragmatic, but an ideologically oriented one. Four years ago, Washington placed a bet on the “moderate secular forces,” whose symbol was considered to be the Free Syrian Army (FSA). Although, everything was smooth only in theory. In reality, it turned out that “moderate opposition” is mainly active in the international conferences. At the same time, it does not play a significant role on the battlefield, ceding to radical groups that are associated with Al Qaeda and the “Islamic State,” which is only beginning to build its own “caliphate.”
The U.S. cooperation with the opposition was accompanied by constant scandals that put the CIA in a bad light. Practically, hundreds of millions of dollars were wasted — fighters of the “moderate opposition,” who were trained with the help of Americans, frequently found themselves in the ranks of radical groups. Moreover, they found themselves there along with weapons provided by Washington. The FSA has not achieved any significant success in four years. And Donald Trump, after reviewing the Syrian strategy from the common-sense point of view, apparently decided to go back from idealism to pragmatism.
And pragmatism had and still has completely different priorities.
Firstly, it’s necessary to focus on the fight against the main enemy – the Islamic State and other terrorist groups. Secondly, they need to rely not on some mythic “moderate opposition” but on the only effective pro-American force in Syria — the Kurdish troops. They, unlike the FSA, effectively oppose the Islamic State on the battlefield and are now storming Raqqa, the capital of the self-proclaimed “caliphate.” And finally, remove from the agenda the slogan of the inevitable overthrow of Bashar Assad, as it is insisted by the leaders of the FSA. Nowadays Assad is not the main problem for the U.S. in the Middle East. Also, after Russia got involved in this conflict, the power balance changed fundamentally. Occupation of Damascus and change of the regime today seem like an unrealizable scenario. Thus, further funding of the FSA, the continuation of the "ideological investments" of Barack Obama becomes a senseless waste of the funds of the American taxpayers.
Another fact attracts attention — according to the sources of the Washington Post, the decision to withdraw the Syrian opposition from the allowance was taken a month ago. Thus, it happened before President Putin and President Trump got acquainted in Hamburg. Due to the fact that the Syrian issue became the central theme of the negotiations between the two leaders, one can assume the revision of the U.S. strategy significantly contributed to the success of negotiations. It created a favorable psychological background and showed the Kremlin that the current U.S. administration is capable of correcting the mistakes of the previous one.