Trump’s Landmark Decision to Join Forces with Russia – First in Syria

The decision US President Donald Trump reached Tuesday, Jan. 24, amid the policy-making blizzard of his first week in office, promises to touch off seismic shifts in the world’s political landscape for years to come. Only a select few in DC, Moscow, Jerusalem, Riyadh and Abu Dhabi, were kept informed of the exact move which set those shifts in motion.
It was in fact a phone call from the Trump administration to notify the Kremlin that President Trump had finally decided to go for military and political cooperation with Moscow in the Syrian arena, in accordance with the past and future agreements reached by their top national security advisers, Michael Flynn in the White House and Nikolai Platonovich Patrushev in the Kremlin.
This is reported here for the first time by DEBKA Weekly from Washington.
Twenty-four hours after that call, six Russian Tu-22M3 long-range strategic bombers took to the air from their Russian base and headed for the beleaguered eastern Syrian town of Deir ez-Zour, where Syrian government forces and their air base were under crippling ISIS siege.
The Russian bombers were joined over their target by a pair of American F/A-18 Super Hornets, which flew in from the Gulf as escorts for the Russian sortie.
This combined US-Russian operation against ISIS in Syria was not favored by the new Secretary of Defense, Gen. James Mattis and the Pentagon. (See a separate item on the crossed wires between the White House and Pentagon on the joint operation.)
But the White House is on the move with big plans for Syria. In an ABC interview Wednesday, Jan. 25, Trump declared: “I’ll absolutely do safe zones in Syria,” in reference to the refugees fleeing the violence of war. Europe had made a tremendous mistake, he said, by admitting millions of refugees from Syria and other Middle Eastern trouble spots, adding: “I don’t want that to happen here.”
Administration sources expect Trump to order the Pentagon and State Department to go to work on a plan for setting up the safe zones in Syria, even though it would result in the escalation of US military involvement in its civil war.
According to the information reaching our military and intelligence sources, around six million Syrians have fled their country, but some are beginning to return. The safe zones will probably be located in northern and southern Syria, along its borders with Iraq, Israel and Jordan, and double as launch-pads for US commandos to attack ISIS targets in conjunction with Russia special forces.
The US commander in Syria is still to be chosen.
President Trump’s final decision cuts through the domestic controversy in America over the advisability of his collaboration with Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Middle East. Syria is to be used as the testing rod for their ability to work together in other parts of the world as well.
The US president’s decision came after Putin acceded to his demand for exclusion of Iran and its proxies from all plans for Syria’s future. (See a separate item on the Astana conference.)
As DEBKA Weekly reported in previous issues, Trump and his loyalists are convinced that American intelligence chiefs stoked the outcry over the Russian president’s alleged meddling in the US election process for the sole purpose of sabotaging the evolving pact between him and Putin.
For now, Iran is the big loser from that pact. It has peen pushed abruptly off its perch as leading Middle East and pre-nuclear power, constructed painstakingly for years by the Obama administration. Both Tehran and its Lebanese surrogate Hizballah are about to be summarily tossed out of Syria. They can’t hope to contend with the combined military strength of the United States and Russia, as those powers set about taking over large parts of Syria.
Stripped of its position of high influence in Damascus and US-backed status of regional power, bereft of its precious land bridge to Lebanon and the Mediterranean, and committed to holding back from building a nuclear weapon, the ayatollahs have been dealt a knockout blow as stunning as any military defeat.
Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei could decide to push back by reneging on the nuclear deal Iran signed with the six world powers and start mounting nuclear warheads on its ballistic missiles.
But then, he would face the real risk of military retaliation by the combined forces of the US, Israel and the Gulf powers, led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
Bashar Assad, shorn of his most solid ally, Iran, and comrade-at-arms, Hizballah, has lost most of his leverage for determining the future of Syrian governance. He will either have to step down forthwith, or accept a government-sharing arrangement with a coalition of opposition parties chosen by Washington and Moscow.

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