A Problem with Russian Cooperation
25 January 2017
Immediately following the President’s inauguration, the White House website released six policy pages detailing Trump’s priorities. According to Trump’s foreign policy objectives, “Defeating ISIS and other radical Islamic terror groups will be our highest priority. To defeat and destroy these groups, we will pursue aggressive joint and coalition military operations when necessary. In addition, the Trump Administration will work with international partners to cut off funding for terrorist groups, to expand intelligence sharing, and to engage in cyberwarfare to disrupt and disable propaganda and recruiting.”
Daesh, or the Islamic State, and Syria’s Assad regime have been viciously embattled since the beginning of the region’s conflict, and the U.S.-led coalition has captured significant territory from Daesh and destroyed key oil infrastructure in recent months. Oil remains one of Daesh’s key sources of income, and while U.S. strikes against oil smuggling convoys have inflicted heavy material losses, Daesh has shifted its smuggling routes to territory patrolled by Russian forces. Coalition aircraft are unable to fly and strike in those areas, and the Daesh oil trade has been allowed to survive. The Trump Administration could attempt to coordinate operations with the Russian military, though, despite the conflict, the Russian-backed Assad regime is currently purchasing oil from Daesh and the trade has now become the radical group’s top source of income. The Assad regime’s reliance on the trade will likely prevent the Russians from permitting the destruction of Daesh oil convoys, let alone cooperating in the strikes.