The lessons of Trump's moves in Syria will not be forgotten

The next time the US military seeks local allies they will learn the price of Trump’s betrayal of the Kurds.
Thursday 17/10/2019
An elderly man is evacuated from a building in Akcakale, a town near the Turkish border with Syria on October 13, 2019, after it was hit by a rocket reported to be fired from within Syria. (AFP)
An elderly man is evacuated from a building in Akcakale, a town near the Turkish border with Syria on October 13, 2019, after it was hit by a rocket reported to be fired from within Syria. (AFP)

US President Donald Trump treats foreign relations in the same manner he addresses his personal issues -- very selfishly and narrow-mindedly.

Since he has been in the Oval Office, Trump has demonstrated time and again that his policy has been not to watch out for the country he has sworn to protect and defend against all enemies, foreign and domestic, but for the greater benefit of Donald Trump. In Trump's world, cheating, lying and distorting facts are permissible.

Now, as he meddles in foreign affairs, where Trump claims that, as in everything else -- from labour unions to nuclear armament -- there is no one who knows the issues, in this case the Kurdish one, better than he does.

Even career diplomats who have spent a lifetime in the Foreign Service don’t match up to the president -- at least according to the ultra-inflated ego that Trump carries around with that giant chip on his shoulder.

So why bother to consult with the people who made a career studying diplomacy or who have served in the military what the domino effect of pulling US forces from Syria would create?

When told there would be chaos and mayhem in the region and that the fighting would create a new wave of refugees seeking to flee the bedlam caused by his thoughtless decision, Trump said there was no longer a reason to maintain US troops in Syria because "we" won and had defeated the Islamic State (ISIS).

It didn’t take long for Turkish forces to commence their offensive in northern Syria. No sooner had US forces been ordered out of their zone that the Turkish military opened an artillery barrage and aerial bombardment.

In the confusion that ensued, a US Special Forces position was hit by Turkish fire. The US military said the Turks were aware of the Americans' position.

Ten of thousands of terrified civilians ran for cover, scurrying to find shelter wherever they could. Scores of women and children fled their homes, trying to find a safe place from the inferno that had descended upon them.

Most appeared lost, not knowing which way to find safety or if there even was such a place for them as the Turkish military set out to remove Kurdish forces, whom Turkey regards as terrorists, from land along the Turkish and Syrian borders.

Trump’s hasty decision to recall US forces in northern Syria unleashed a barrage of angry responses not only from Democrats but from prominent Republicans as well.

Liz Cheney, a Republican member of the US House of Representatives, tweeted: “News from Syria is sickening. Turkish troops preparing to invade Syria from the north, Russia-backed forces from the south, ISIS fighters attacking Raqqa. It is impossible to understand why Trump is leaving America’s allies to be slaughtered and enabling the return of ISIS.”

It seems very likely that part of the price for Turkey to join the fight against the jihadists was to sell out the Kurds once more.

History has not been kind to the Kurds and neither has geography. The Kurds are scattered across Turkey, Syria, Iran and Iraq. If Washington turned its back on them, it would have been a repetition of history.

US President Woodrow Wilson promised the Kurds a state at the close of World War I. The Kurds remained faithful to their word and supported the Allies in the conflict. Then again, in hopes of convincing the Western powers to grant them an independent state, they supported the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

The conflict ripping through the Middle East today, if indeed it is a single conflict or rather numerous conflicts, is far from over. When the dust settles and the bullets stop flying, it will be interesting to see whether the map of the region changes.

One certainty is that the trust of the United States will come into question. The next time the US military seeks local allies they will learn the price of Trump’s betrayal of the Kurds.

In his great and infinite wisdom, which he claims to have, Trump brushes off worries that freed ISIS prisoners will be a threat: “They're going to be escaping to Europe,” he said, speaking of ISIS prisoners and that, to the American president, seems OK.

Men and women, Americans as well as Europeans, as well as the Kurds, have died in battle in recent years fighting ISIS.

“These days will remain for the United States and Europe marked by shame and infamy. We have abandoned and betrayed the Kurds in Syria. We have delivered them to the barbarianism of Islamist Erdogan all while they were our allies fighting ISIS and have spilt their blood in so doing” said Claude Moniquet, a counterterrorism specialist in Brussels.