Both Russia and the U.S. might gain if they see eye-to-eye in the Middle East. However, there are no guarantees that they will.

Syrian Army soldiers and military equipment seen near a main highway interchange in the area of Ramouseh district in the southwest of Aleppo, Syria. Photo: RIA Novosti

This is the abridged version of the article that first appeared at the website of the Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC). The article was edited and adjusted to Russia Direct’s editorial standards. Read the original article here.

It is clear in the early weeks of Donald Trump's presidency that it is no longer political business as usual. The approach will not and cannot be the same course as past endeavors to peace. Rather, it will add up to a hybrid all-inclusive regional methods from a position of coordinated Russian-American strength.

The Middle East players will quickly discover the Trump-Putin era brings forth new processes that are far different from the one of the previous presidential administration of the U.S. The Russians now hold a strategic foothold as the main power broker in Syria following a win against the opposition rebels. The absence of a solid U.S. foreign policy doctrine as a counterbalance to the Russian offensive strategy diminished the fear of American military reprisal and was understood as a sign of weakness to the Putin-type bravado leaders who only respond to those who project positions of strength.

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Trump has indicated during his campaign and after becoming President that he hopes to get along with Russia, stating “that would be a good thing for America.” Trump’s praise for Putin’s operational skills as he marched towards his election victory was a political win for the Russian President as well.

Likewise, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has expressed the desire to normalize relations with the U.S. "Following the difficult relations we had under Barack Obama, President Putin is ready to meet in the interests of global security and stability. We share the position expressed by President Trump for re-establishing normal relations. This means we need to work in a business-like way," he said.

Business-like is Trump’s language in setting up the art of the deal. Russia and the U.S., while at odds in the balance of global power, now have an opportunity to move the world forward in the Middle East on a common thread of mutual respect and beneficial national security. In short, they can eliminate the Islamic State of Iraq and the Gretaer Syria (ISIS) and place the debacle in Syria, the attachment of Crimea, and the removal of economic sanctions on Russia in the rear-view mirror. There will be some give and take here but in the end, Trump will have built trust with Putin that allows them to move past these achievements or bygones and onto the next stage in the Middle East process.

Specifically, America might exert pressure on Saudi Arabia, with Putin grinding the corners in Iran. If the world cannot get past these two entities finding common ground like Russia and U.S., then any Middle East peace effort will not filter downward and throughout the Arab world. They need to understand their well-being and stability hinges on getting behind the plan.

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In the business-like matter, these side-bar discussions are much the same as senior executives of major corporations and multiple labor union presidents negotiating a contract. One must understand that the parties will each take back the positives and benefits in the contract that demonstrates they are working on behalf of their constituents trying to reach a deal that all can live with. The outlining countries or benefactors of the regional powers will look for gains as well. For the most part, they will fall in line.

Syria and Iraq, which may have postured in the past, are in no position to create demands other than surviving as a country. The Gulf States simply fall in line to preserve their well-being. Iran will be the hardest nut to crack. If Russia walks away with a less threatening NATO, the removal of sanctions over Ukraine and increased oil revenues, Putin may just figure it all out.

The one question for Trump will be whether he can persuade Russia to turn away from Iran and cooperate with U.S. policy to counter Iranian aggression in the region. It is important to determine what the limits of Russia’s willingness to work together regarding Iran are. Those conversations must take place. U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who is known to have gained much respect from Putin through his days with Exxon, will be the man to lead such a discussion.

Putin must decide if he really seeks to become an ideal partner in defeating radical Islam, then Iran must be defeated in its current state that permits sponsored terrorism and a roadmap to a nuclear weapon that is as much a threat to Moscow as a hemisphere away in Washington.

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Just as Barack Obama’s Russian playbook scrapped the missile defense deployment in Eastern Europe in hopes of greater Russian cooperation on Iran’s nuclear program, it is now Trump showcasing a new playbook that offers a great deal in return for in as much as reversal to Obama’s American foreign policy on Iran.

There may be too much on the table for Russia to walk away but it might also be too much for Trump to venture against Putin who could stick it to Trump as he did to Obama. That said, Trump must champion American fortitude in the resurgence of America’s military might and a willingness to use it without equivocation.

What assurances does America have that Russia will cooperate? None. But what does the U.S. lose that it hasn’t already lost? Crimea, Syria, Iran’s nuclear track and influence in the Middle East. What does America have to gain? Resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, a mitigated Iranian nuclear threat and a turning point where the world moves on to the next era in civilization.

The opinion of the author may not necessarily reflect the position of Russia Direct or its staff.

This is the abridged version of the article that first appeared at the website of the Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC). The article was edited and adjusted to Russia Direct’s editorial standards. Read the original article here.