Vladimir Putin

Trump seeks to wedge Russia, Iran over future of Middle East

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 US 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, the officials say.

A senior administration official said the White House had no illusions about Russia and did not see Mr Putin as a “choir boy”.

But the official said the administration did not view Russia as the same existential threat that the Soviet Union posed to the US 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.

Such a strategy does not ­entirely explain the mixed signals Mr Trump and his circle have sent to Moscow, which have unnerved US allies and caught Republican leaders in congress off guard.

Days after US ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley said a surge in violence in eastern Ukraine ­demanded “clear and strong condemnation of Russian actions”, Vice-President Mike Pence suggested yesterday that Washington could lift sanctions on Moscow soon if it co-operated in the fight against Islamic State.

Read the full article by Jay Solomon of The Wall Street Journal as reprinted at The Australian.