Terrorism is a very peculiar word indeed. In the Middle East, it’s hard to find two people who agree on who they deem terrorist, versus who they consider a venerable freedom fighter or legitimate army. That said, one question which is being applied more to Trump these days, is did he do anything in his term to reduce terrorism? Or in fact did he merely fan the flames? Or perhaps, does he have any clue at all what he is doing in any of these so-called terror campaigns and is merely a four-year-old playing with crayons hoping that something, at some point, will become clearer?
If we are to take the limited definition of terrorist as being a bearded Sunni extremist with an AK47 who is battling to create an Islamic State for himself, from the failed states of Syria, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Yemen, Iraq and Afghanistan, then we have to assume that Trump’s interventions have achieved very little. Soon after taking office, he quickly took the helm of a military campaign in Iraq and Syria, which was aimed at hitting ISIL head on, which started in Iraq and progressed west until it arrived at the terror group’s epicentre of Raqqa in Northeast Syria. But the disinformation and plain outright lies by journalists who refused stoically to report the nuances of both the policy and the reality on the ground is shocking and has paid its toll to the situation today – which might have contributed to Trump being nominated for an award which recognises efforts made to bring about peace.
The U.S. military campaign in Iraq under Obama, was surreptitiously led by an Iranian commander, Qasem Soleimani, the same one that the U.S. assassinated just a few months back in Baghdad, following Trump’s orders. There are even photographs of Soleimani and U.S. top brass in Baghdad talking amicably among themselves during the peak of the Iranian-led battle against ISIL which preceded the U.S. one.
Makes sense. Both Iran and the U.S. wanted to destroy ISIL. Much of the work in previous years in Syria, in fact, had been carried out by Iran and its proxy Hezbollah. As a courtesy to Obama, in fact, the Iranians pulled back their own hardcore militias in Iraq to allow the U.S. campaign to begin, as a gesture of goodwill, such was the relationship at the time between Tehran and the U.S. in 2015. But nothing Trump did, once he took over, made any sense. And it still doesn’t. So, after taking heavy defeats in Mosul and other Iraqi strongholds, many ISIL operatives moved to Syria, where, eventually they escaped U.S. forces by relocating to the south of Syria, with the aid of Iranian soldiers there who assisted them. There’s just too much irony. Trump begins anti-Iran campaign within months of taking office. He takes all the credit for “destroying” ISIL. And yet, as early as 2019, we see that in fact, the reality is that he has merely moved ISIL around and made it more of an underground movement. It’s regrouping in Iraq and Syria and also taking its campaign against American soldiers where it can in other places, like Somalia and Afghanistan.
And to top all the irony, you have Trump’s anti-Iran policies which not only directly impact the growth of ISIL and other extremist groups, but now we are seeing more and more the emergence of a new campaign against American forces – which didn’t exist in 2017 when Trump kicked off his Middle East campaign by launching missiles into Syria from a U.S. battleship.
One of the reasons why Trump always wanted to get out of Syria is that his policies there against ISIL make him look a buffoon, given that Iranian ally Assad benefits from those extremists being wiped out (as they are also fighting Assad, Hezbollah and Iran in Syria). If any U.S. journalist pointed this out at a press briefing, he would look very, very silly indeed.
U.S. journalists in DC aren’t capable of asking the President even how he can claim credit for a so-called ‘peace deal’ with Palestine (brokered between the UAE and Israel) when the Palestinians weren’t even consulted on it, let alone signed anything.
But the notion that Trump is hitting ISIL is and always was folly. With U.S. sanctions in full swing against Iran and a real groundswell of opinion in Tehran aligning itself with the hardliners’ view (‘no choice but to hit back’), many worry about a new war with the U.S. and its allies which kicks off if Trump wins a second term. A number of analysts have pointed out that Tehran is already preparing for this.
I would argue that this is already happening on a smaller, but effective scale, in Somalia and Afghanistan. The scandal recently that U.S. forces were allegedly a target of Russian incentives via the Taliban might have hurt Trump. But it dwarfed the real story in Afghanistan which is that U.S. forces there are more vulnerable than ever as they might well be facing the wrath of both the Taliban and ISIL-affiliated groups supported by Iran.
This is already happening in Somalia where Iran is directly funding, through its operatives on the ground, Al Shabab terrorist group which is able and willing to go for ‘clean shot’ kills of U.S. soldiers and their Gulf Arab allies. This is as a direct result of U.S. sanctions on Iran, which in itself is an act of war we should not forget. Iran is, in fact, sourcing a number of countries in Africa who have such groups even if their ideology is not aligned to their own. The focus is the U.S.
China, rapidly becoming an enemy of the U.S. under Trump, is also looking to set up a number of military bases in Africa as it is looking for states now to accept their offers of building them.
For the meantime, Afghanistan and Somalia are the new battlegrounds though which have come about because of the ineptitude of a U.S. president who doesn’t really understand the region at all, doesn’t read reports and is really only obsessed with Obama’s legacy – and of course his own re-election.
And this erroneous policy, which the American people simply cannot understand or care to, is spreading its tentacles into sub-Saharan Africa, with more and more ISIL-affiliated groups now springing up in the Sahel and starting to get the media limelight. Just recently a number of arrests of terror cells were made in Morocco where attacks were planned against civilians and top government officials. Although the culprits were Moroccans, a police chief in Rabat points the finger at Libya and Mali for the source of brainwashing and supply calling the Sahel a “ticking time bomb of terrorism”.
And so to nominate Trump for a Nobel peace prize is a febrile triumph of nonsense, which leaves many of U.S. wondering how satirical magazines like The Onion make a living anymore. Trump has done more to expand ISIL’s reach and capability than anyone else as his Iran policy is literally like pouring gasoline on a fire. His policies, erratic as they may be, have brought together factions which were previously divided by their different interpretations of Islam – Iran and Al Shabab, for example or Hezbollah and Hamas in Palestine – all focused on a common enemy of America and its allies. As Trump prepares to pull out a number – but not all – of U.S. troops in Afghanistan and continue his baptism of lies directed at a very gullible public and a servile press corps along the lines of “see! I told you I would get our boys out of Middle East wars” it’s going to be hard to explain the rise in deaths of U.S. soldiers there. And new numbers of deaths in places like Somalia which a certain generation of Americans associate with a 1993 TIME magazine cover of a body of a dead U.S. soldier being dragged by a vehicle through the streets of Mogadishu.
Presumably this will all happen a few weeks after the election. Not very nobel. Or Noble. Whatever.