Since the start of unrest in Syria, the US government has fixated on dislodging President Assad from office — using any means necessary.
However, there has been widespread speculation that Donald Trump will focus more on tackling groups such as Daesh, and could potentially be willing to work in conjunction with Assad’s forces and Russia.
Ahrar al-Sham is one of the most powerful groups fighting against the Syrian Army and its allies. Russia has attempted to designate this group as a terrorist organization but the US has previously protested the group’s innocence.
The US government has also criticized the Russian air force for attacking this group. Ahrar al-Sham has openly said that they want to impose Shariah law across Syria, and they have even collaborated with Fateh al-Sham, which was previously part of the al-Qaeda franchise.
Unlike Daesh, which seeks to establish a worldwide caliphate, Ahrar al-Sham has indicated that they are only interested in imposing Shariah law in Syria. This is already problematic, as many minorities will inevitably suffer from persecution.
Furthermore, if the group was to satisfy its objectives in Syria, they may expand their goals, potentially aiming to establish an Islamic State far beyond Syria’s borders. After all, groups like this thrive off violence, war and aggressive expansion. Therefore, by aiding this group, America is putting itself, and many other countries in unnecessary danger.
It is hard to imagine a scenario where Donald Trump will continue to support this group. In fact, many opposition fighters in Syria were deeply saddened when news broke out that Trump had emerged victorious over Hillary Clinton.
It appeared that Hillary’s foreign policy, especially on Syria, was in stark contrast to Trump’s. She was seemingly in favor of imposing a no-fly zone over Syria and providing more military support to the armed opposition. Russia has sophisticated military assets in Syria, including several fighter jets, and the S-300 and S-400 SAM systems. This puts them in a good position to deal with/prevent a no-fly zone.
Even with substantial support from their allies, rebels in Aleppo were unable to break the siege on eastern Aleppo. They were able to score some initial gains, especially in the al-Assad district, but pro-government forces were successful in reversing all their gains in a matter of days, with little air support. The pro-government forces in Aleppo are comprised of units from the Syrian Army, Liwa al-Quds (a Palestinian militia), SSNP fighters, Hezbollah, and Iraqi Shia militiamen.
Russia and Syria have given rebels and civilians the opportunity to leave Aleppo several times, but opposition fighters have prevented civilians from leaving the area. Recently, footage emerged showing protests in Aleppo, calling for the rebels to leave the area. Some of the footage reportedly showed armed men firing at protesters with live ammunition.
It remains to be seen what the newly elected President of the US will do, but it seems that he will cut off support to the rebels at the least. He may even be content with allowing Assad to remain in power, as a means of combating terrorism, and helping Syria return to normality. Even without further assistance from the west, Assad’s forces already have the upper hand at most battlefronts in Syria.
Some analysts have suggested that Trump may continue with America’s previous foreign policy — arming and backing the opposition, including Islamist groups such as Ahrar al-Sham.
Ultimately, it depends on whether he decides to give his advisers a large role in policy-making, while he takes more of a figurehead position or decides to implement his pre-election narrative.