By Jay Solomon, Feb. 5, 2017 7:47 p.m. ET
“WASHINGTON—The Trump administration is exploring ways to break Russia’s military and diplomatic alliance with Iran in a bid to both end the Syrian conflict and bolster the fight against Islamic State, said senior administration, European and Arab officials involved in the policy discussions.
The emerging strategy seeks to reconcile President Donald Trump’s seemingly contradictory vows to improve relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin and to aggressively challenge the military presence of Iran – one of Moscow’s most critical allies—in the Middle East, these officials say.
A senior administration official said the White House doesn’t have any illusions about Russia or see Mr. Putin as a “choir boy,” despite further conciliatory statements from Mr. Trump about the Russian leader over the weekend. But the official said that the administration doesn’t view Russia as the same existential threat that the Soviet Union posed to the U.S. during the Cold War and that Mr. Trump was committed to constraining Iran.
“If there’s a wedge to be driven between Russia and Iran, we’re willing to explore that,” the official said.” (WSJ)
What is the goal here, besides continuing to uphold the notion that America is the indispensable nation destined to shape the world to its messianic vision? The only discontinuity from the previous Borg hegemonic policy is the laudable desire for a peaceful and cooperative relationship with Russia. Other than that, there's still a slavish obedience to Likudnik demands. Does the Trump Administration want this better relationship with Russia more than it wants to destroy the Shia Crescent and please Israel?
Trump has much to bargain with. He can end the sanctions targeting Russia and acknowledge a Russian sphere of influence in its near abroad. Would this be enough to entice Putin into abandoning Iran and dismantling the R+6 coalition in Syria? It might be tempting, but I doubt Putin will bite. I think the long game here is the Russian desire to establish a bulwark against the Wahabbi jihadist threat on its southern flank. That bulwark would dissolve with a weakened Iran and Syria and a U.S. backed Saudi Arabia.
I guess we’ll find out soon enough who’s the real champion of the art of the deal.