“Strategically brilliant” sellout: Trump’s betrayal of the Kurds

TEHRAN, Oct. 20 (MNA) – Trump’s betrayal of the Kurds not only should give ample evidence of US perfidy, but also should be a lesson for all who fancy themselves as allies of the United States.

“At last the world knows America as the savior of the world!”  —US president Woodrow Wilson

Turkey invaded the Syrian Arab Republic on October 9 following a US pullout. The US Congress has started an impeachment inquiry of Donald Trump, who apparently gave the green light for the Turkish invasion. The US president’s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, was accused of operating a “shadow shakedown” operation against Ukraine’s president and lobbying for a Turkish bank indicted for evading US sanctions against Iran. Meanwhile, his secretary of state was pontificating on being a Christian leader who holds himself to a “high set of standards.”  

Three days after Trump’s announcement of a US troop withdrawal from Syria, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan ordered Turkish forces to enter the country to neutralize the Kurdish People’s Defense Units (YPK “terrorists”) and stabilize the border zone. Placing his bipolar affliction on full display, Trump has alternated between praise for the Turkish leader’s actions and threats to bring down the Turkish economy. “I view the situation on the Turkish border with Syria to be, for the United States, strategically brilliant,” he exuded, claiming, “Syria is protecting the Kurds.” Earlier, he had stated that he was “fully prepared to swiftly destroy Turkey’s economy if Turkish leaders continue down this dangerous and destructive path.” 

In his executive order issued October 14, Trump specifically wrote that Turkey’s assault “undermines the campaign to defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria or ISIS,” and “constitutes an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States.” As a consequence, Trump has declared a national emergency, and authorized sanctions against any “current or former official of the Government of Turkey.” Moreover, the order contains broad language that appears to go well beyond sanctions on Turkey and its officials by sanctioning any “foreign person” who is found by the US secretary of state to have been complicit in obstructing or preventing a “political solution to the conflict in Syria.”  

Minimizing the abrupt abandonment of his Kurdish ally, Trump quipped, “Anyone who wants to assist Syria in protecting the Kurds is good with me, whether it is Russia, China, or Napoleon Bonaparte.” US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi criticized Trump’s impetuous act, noting, “His erratic decision-making is threatening lives, risking regional security and undermining America’s credibility in the world.” South Carolina Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, perpetually a Trump lapdog, predictably supported his master after some initial squeamish protests categorizing the troop withdrawal as “shortsighted,” ?irresponsible” and “unnerving to its core.”

Turkey’s actions in Syria present a conundrum for the United States. As a NATO member with an estimated 435,000 troops, the largest contingent of military personnel in the organization outside of the US, Turkey is not a country with which Washington can trifle. Erdo?an is a powerful leader and a man of action, as opposed to his American counterpart who is a blowhard full of bluff, bravado, and bluster, but who backpedals and vacillates when confronted by a hardened, politically savvy opponent. By holding U.S, nuclear weapons, about fifty B61 gravity atomic bombs, at Incirlik hostage, Erdo?an effectively has called Trump’s bluff of sanctions “devastating to Turkey’s economy,” leaving the latter little choice but to send his vice president and secretary of state to do damage control on behalf of the NATO alliance.

Off the record, a US defense official has conceded that the US nukes at Incirlik “were now essentially Erdogan’s hostages,” but to remove them from there would not only be a politically ticklish endeavor but also would almost certainly mean the end of the US-Turkey alliance and possibly, even NATO itself.  In addition, with its possession of the precise grid coordinates of former US, and now Kurdish, positions in Syria, Turkey has the upper hand in this act of unilateral aggression and demonstrated as much when Turkish artillery shells “bracketed” a US commando outpost near Kobani on October 4, detonating about 300 meters away on either side. There is deep symbolism in this Turkish shelling of the US outpost; Kobani was the first success by the US-backed Kurdish forces in routing ISIS from their territory.

One aspect of the Turkish incursion into Syria, which may appeal to Trump’s demonstrated racist tendencies, is the inherent ethnic cleansing bound to occur.  Erdogan, after failing to topple the government of President Bashar al-Assad, found his country awash in refugees, some 3.6 million ethnic Arabs. His plan for the so-called “safe zone,” which his invasion is designed to create by purging the indigenous Kurdish population, is to settle the largely Sunni Arab Syrian refugees in place of the Kurds to form a de facto demilitarized zone, thereby eliminating the threat of cross-border raids by separatists aligned with the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). Scattered across Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Turkey, the Kurds form the largest ethnic group in the world without their own country.  Erdogan has blatantly threatened the Syrian Kurds, declaring, “If you want to live in Kurdistan, there is a Kurdistan in northern Iraq. Take all the terror lovers with you, clear off and live there.”

Along similarly racist lines are Erdogan’s threats to flood Europe with refugees, should European leaders fail to go along with his invasion and occupation plans for northern Syria. “If you try to describe our current operation as an occupation, our task will be simple,” Erdo? a remarked. “We will open the gates and send 3.6 million refugees your way.”  While the Turkish leader struck a deal with the EU for a cool €6 billion in 2016 to retain displaced Syrians, pressure has mounted among his supporters to repatriate the refugees following the recession in 2018 and drop in currency value along with double-digit inflation. Erdogan’s perspective on immigrants would also appear closely to parallel Trump’s.

Another aspect of the Turkish military operation, which also benefits Trump, is that the resulting chaos will divert public attention from the recently initiated congressional investigation into his impeachment. Shortly after Trump’s election in 2016, Harvard University professor of international relations Stephen Walt warned that Trump might make “an Erdogan-like attempt to use a terrorist attack or some other equally dramatic event as an excuse to declare a ‘state of emergency’ and to assume unprecedented executive authority.”  As noted above, by his executive order dated October 14, 2019, Trump has already declared a state of emergency.

In view of the abandonment of the Kurds by the US, not the mention the JCPOA, the “Iran nuclear deal,” how could the Islamic Republic of Iran negotiate with such a “partner?” Of the 374 treaties negotiated by the US with indigenous peoples of North America, only one was honored. Although signing on the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, the US has neither ratified nor enforced it. Trump withdrew from the 2015 Paris Climate Accord; Bush II withdrew from the 1998 Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. The United States is the only nation to have not ratified the 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child, the 1996 Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, the 1997 Mine-Ban Treaty, and over forty other treaties.  

Rather than being “the savior of the world,” as US President Woodrow Wilson haughtily proclaimed at the Treaty of Versailles after the First World War, the US seems hell-bent on being its scourge. Trump’s betrayal of the Kurds not only should give ample evidence of US perfidy, but also should be a lesson for all who fancy themselves as allies of the United States.

MNA/TT

News Code 151413

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