Commentary

Kurds Blindsided in Epic Blunder

By Hans Bader | October 17, 2019 | 10:04am EDT
This photo, taken on October 17, 2019 from the Turkish side of the border with Syria, shows smoke rising from the Syrian town of Ras al-Ain during the Turkish offensive against Kurdish groups in northeastern Syria. (Photo by OZAN KOSE/AFP via Getty Images)

With little warning, President Trump withdrew U.S. troops from Kurdish areas of Syria. The Kurds had fought with the U.S against the genocidal terrorist group ISIS. Now, Turkey has invaded the Kurdish region, killing hundreds of people and driving tens of thousands of people from their homes.

The U.S. troop withdrawal left the Kurds blindsided and feeling betrayed, notes the Military Times. Based on the understanding that the U.S. would provide security, the Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces “had cooperated” with the U.S. and Turkey, by “removing fortifications” against the Turks, and “withdrawing heavy weapons” from the region bordering their forces last month.

The Kurds relied on the Trump administration’s claims to their detriment. America had no obligation to remain in Syria forever, and eventually, would have to have left. But giving the Kurds so little forewarning, and leaving the Kurds blindsided, was a shameful disgrace.

This betrayal of the Kurds will make it harder for the U.S. to obtain allies in the Middle East in the future. That will undermine our foreign policy goals.

Mustafa Bali, a spokesman for the Kurdish SDF, “tweeted that his group had not been not expecting the U.S. to protect northeastern Syria. ‘But people here are owed an explanation regarding the security mechanism deal and destruction of fortifications,'” he said.

In the Washington Examiner, Michael Rubin calls the Turkish invasion a disaster for the U.S. and Syria’s Christian and religious minorities:

It resurrects the Islamic State and al Qaeda threat, empowers the Islamic State’s greatest enabler, and gives Iran an opening to expand its reach by forcing the Kurds into Bashar Assad’s embrace. As the invasion unfolded, Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu said on CNN Türk that Turkey would now “make a deal with ISIS.”

Turkey’s invasion of Syria may be, for the United States, a strategic error. But for Syrian Christians, Yazidis, and other religious minorities as well as women, it is a disaster. Northeastern Syria had its problems, but it was the freest and most stable part of the country. Yazidi temples and Christian churches dotted the landscape, and Syrians regardless of faith lived with each other, interacted in the same schools and markets, and worshiped without fear of reprisal. …

The Yazidi plight at the hands of the Islamic State has been well-covered in the West, but [there has been] far less attention to Turkey’s active discrimination against Yazidis under its control. … When Turkey previously invaded Syria’s Afrin district, it and its proxies targeted Yazidi civilians.

Within Syria, Turkey and its Free Syrian Army proxies regularly target Christians and Yazidis. In Afrin, for example, Turkey and Turkish-backed administrators have refused to register locals with Kurdish names. … In the latest Turkish bombardment, the choice of targets is telling: Turkish planes struck Bisheriya, the largest Christian neighborhood in Qamishli city, setting numerous houses alight and killing several civilians.

Our shameful treatment of the Kurds is one of many examples of American politicians being unreliable in their dealings with foreign peoples. That discourages people in foreign lands from helping and cooperating with the United States.

It reminds me of the Obama administration’s even more disastrous military intervention in Libya. It intervened in Libya in 2011 to remove that country’s relatively secular dictator, after he had earlier agreed to give up his weapons of mass destruction under the Bush administration. That unauthorized military intervention not only violated the War Powers Act and the Constitution. It also discouraged any other country, such as North Korea, from giving up its nukes. No country will give up its weapons of mass destruction if that makes a future U.S. intervention to remove its leaders more likely.

Our intervention in Libya led to a devastating civil war in that country that killed thousands of people annually. That civil war still continues to this very day, fueling Islamic terrorism and extremism that the country’s former dictator, for all his deep flaws, had kept in check.

The Obama administration’s intervention in Libya was also very harmful to other countries. It also caused severe poverty in Niger, the country southwest of Libya, as migrant workers in Libya fled the civil war to return to Niger, where few jobs were available. It also helped fuel a bloody civil war in Mali, the country west of Niger, as Tuareg mercenaries once employed by Libya’s dictator returned to their homeland of Mali to mount an insurgency.

 

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