Trump Transition Team Bids for Obama’s Hands-off in Syria and Iraq

Vice President elect Mike Pence, as leader of the Trump transition team asked White House chief of staff Denis McDonough last week to forward a request to President Barack Obama. He was asked to desist from establishing new realities before his departure on January 20 in four major arenas.
DEBKA Weekly’s Washington sources disclose that the White House was asked to put on hold –
1. The war on ISIS in Iraq.
2. The Syrian conflict in as far as US relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin are concerned.
3. Any military moves involving the pro-Iranian Shiite militias, including the Hashid al-Shaabi taking part in the battle for the Iraqi town of Mosul, and the Afghan and Pakistani Shiite groups fighting for Bashar Assad in Syria. They make up a total of 50,000 Shiite militiamen, who are fighting in the two countries under the supreme commander of Iranian forces in the Syrian, Iraqi and Yemeni wars, Al Qods chief Gen. Qassem Soleimani.
4. Obama was also asked to refrain from steps relating to Turkey’s intervention in the wars in Iraq and Syria, since the president elect’s national security team is already in touch with Ankara on how to proceed after Donald Trump moves into the White House.
It is not known how President Obama responded to these requests. But they do open a window on the incoming president’s top priorities in foreign affairs.
One of his first appointments was that of Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn as national security adviser, who has evidently lost no time in going to work. As revealed in the latest DEBKA Weekly issues, Trump and his advisers are already in touch with President Putin and Turkey’s Recep Erdogan.
It is also evident that the incoming US president sees no useful purpose in piecemeal operations against key Islamic State strongholds, like the one Obama has promoted in Mosul. He considers them wasteful of time, resources and lives – especially since operations such as those conducted in Fallujah and Ramadi, never decisively defeated ISIS and the jihadis kept their grip on parts of the liberated towns.
Trump’s game plan focuses on going straight for the snake’s head and cutting it off – namely the Islamic State’s highest authority headed by “Caliph” Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the Iraqi ex-generals, who are his strategic advisers and his high-profile terror masterminds. For this, large-scale military strength is required; it is no good employing disparate local forces, driven by petty, conflicting political and military agendas and interests, like the forces fighting for Mosul.
To this end, he has contacted Putin through their advisers, with a view to discussing total war on ISIS by means of a comprehensive, systematic campaign for decapitating the organization’s highest echelons.
American and Russian special operations, naval and air units would combine with professional armies on the ground, put up by Turkey, Syria, Jordan and possibly Israel.
He has no objection to the Iraqi armed forces taking part, although he has a low opinion of their competence.
But the incoming president is eager to cut out of the equation all the pro-Iranian Shiite groups, which the Obama administration fostered, despite his denials, for enhancing Washington’s relations with Tehran.
Excluding the Shiites from his anti-ISIS campaign, if this can be achieved, would represent Trump’s first adverse step against Iran.
But the way to this is far from clear at this very preliminary stage. The Iranians have been playing ball with Russia in their military operations in Syria and Iraq. To realize his vision for vanquishing ISIS, Trump would prefer to persuade Putin to drop Iran and its Shiites from the project. This would drive a large wedge between Moscow and Tehran. It is too soon to say whether or not the Russian president will go along with this. And Iran’s stake in the relations is too weighty for it to stand by idly without a fight.
Rather than waiting to be dumped by Russia, the ayatollahs are fully capable of a maneuver for catching the US president and his security team napping.

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