Opinion |

Kurdish Leader: Trump Just Stuck a Knife in the Back of America's Brothers-in-arms

The international community must choose: Enforce a no-fly zone over northern Syria – or join Trump's cowardly betrayal of the Kurds, and his appeasement of a murderous Islamist-fascist Turkish government

Akil Marceau
Akil Marceau
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Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and U.S. President Donald Trump shake hands during a meeting on the sidelines of the G-20 summit in Osaka, Japan. June 29, 2019
Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and U.S. President Donald Trump shake hands during a meeting on the sidelines of the G-20 summit in Osaka, Japan. June 29, 2019Credit: Pool Presidential Press Service
Akil Marceau
Akil Marceau

Turkish troops, supported by tens of thousands of Sunni Islamist militia members, have started their invasion of the Kurdish majority region of North Eastern Syria. Those troops will do everything they can to eliminate the Kurds, the focus of their sickening nationalist phobia, just as their Ottoman predecessors did in committing the Armenian genocide.

This is why Donald Trump’s green light to Recep Tayyip Erdogan is both immoral and irresponsible.

The Turkish air force has flown over the Kurdish border towns of Gerê-spî, Serê-Kanî, Derbasiyê and Dêrik, a region stretching for over 450 km. Turkish aerial bombardments have already caused civilian deaths and forced many to leave their homes.

>> Trump Is Complicit in Erdogan's Ethnic Cleansing

The North Eastern Syria Kurdish administration has called on its military forces and all civilians in the area to defend their region. Days into the attack the Syrian Democratic Force (SDF) has resisted a land incursion despite the sophisticated arms, and particularly the air force, of the Turkish army, NATO's second largest force.

The fury created by Trump’s decision, including from within his own Republican camp, and the declarations from the Pentagon trying to give some meaning to the shocking, thunderous and impulsive tweets Trump has discharged, have eased neither the pervasive confusion, nor solved the chaos that is taking place.

The administration and the U.S. military establishment has been running after those tweets, offering diplomatic pirouettes and linguistic tricks to remedy their repercussions. This is an America lacking strategy on key global issues, dependent on the transactional whims of a real estate magnate who only weakens allies and strengthens adversaries.

The fight against jihadist terrorism is far from over. Recent terrorist attacks prove it. Dormant cells wake as soon as vigilance relaxes. It is common knowledge that international terrorism transits through Turkey, with the full complicity of the "deep state" and its secret networks, using the country as a logistics and rear base.

In contrast, Kurdish forces are monitoring and managing over 12,000 ISIS prisoners and 70,000 members of their families, including their children. That is now at risk.

Dictatorial regimes in Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria have all planned genocide and ethnic cleansing against the Kurds, covering all four quarters of Kurdistan. Since the 1960s, successive Syrian regimes have rendered more than 300,000 Kurds stateless and installed Arab settlers in Syrian Kurdistan.

Over the last eight years, and against the odds, Syrian Kurds have succeeded in establishing an administration in this part of Syria that has welcomed the local participation of Christians, Arabs and Armenians. As the safest region in Syria, pluralism is the norm.

Not one bullet has been fired at Turkey from this territory. But it is this emerging administration's pluralism and affirmative feminism that poses a threat to the ruling Islamist-fascist coalition in Turkey.

Syrian Arab and Kurdish civilians arrive in Tal Tamr, in the Syrian northwestern Hasakeh province, after fleeing the Turkish bombardment along the Turkish border. October 10, 2019Credit: AFP

Erdogan repeatedly claims that he intends to forcibly re-settle the three million displaced Syrian Arabs, who have taken refuge in Turkey, in this part of Syria. This means driving out the Kurdish local population and replacing it with an Arab population. It has a name: ethnic cleansing.

Saddam Hussein did the same in Iraqi Kurdistan. However, this time the presence of American troops and their laissez-faire president makes them accomplices.

For Erdogan, seeking a diversion away from his economic and political difficulties, from the widening faults in his own AKP party, from his losses in elections in Turkey’s major cities and energetic emerging opposition movements, invasion is a political gift. With his coalition allies, the far-right fascist MHP party, he has a common enemy: The Kurds.

This time the "Kurdish enemy" is not the 18 million Kurds who are unequal citizens of Turkey, may of whose leaders and elected parliamentarians are in prison, and whose recently-elected mayors have been deliberately removed from office. This time, it is the three million Kurds of Syria who are the target of Ankara's nationalistic phobia.

The Kurdish autonomous administration in northern Syria is precisely the example and model that Turkey wants to avoid at all costs within its own borders. It is a script we've seen before: When Iraqi Kudistan held a referendum for independence, Erdogan responded with seething hostility, closing Turkey's airspace and contributing to the Iraqi government's attacks on Iraqi Kurdistan.

Smoke rises from the Syrian town of Tal Abyad, as seen from the Turkish side of the border, a target of Turkey's military operation against Kurdish forces. October 10, 2019Credit: AFP

It is now urgent to stop Erdogan's invasion of northern Syria. The silence of the UN is scandalous: if it cannot respond when Turkey openly plans to demographically reshape the area and when it invades a UN member state, then when will it ever raise its voice?

The various UN special envoys for Syria, one after another, have watched from the sidelines as this crisis has steadily built. None of them have had the courage to resign out of outrage, none have salvaged credibility for the so-called international community, the world’s conscience.

The West cannot hide behind the excuse of "an over-complex Middle East" in an attempt to dodge the crisis, hiding its head in the sand. It's too simple, and too hypocritical. The West knows this region well, drew up most of its borders, created many of its states, and its modern history, its oil and its market for arms has mingled with all the states from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic.

Radical and expansionist Islam is not only active in this "complex Middle East." It can also strike at the center of Paris' police headquarters, in a Brussels' museum, on a bridge in London, in a skyscraper in New York. The operational field of activity of this radical Islamist movement is international and knows no borders.

The Kurdish bastion against barbaric terrorism has proved to be more than militarily effective. The pluralism and values defended by the Kurds oppose the project defended by the fanatics of the Islamic State and their model of society that promotes liberticide, ethnocide and femicide.

Turkish armed forces drive towards the border with Syria near Akcakale in Sanliurfa province on October 8, 2019Credit: AFP

Abandoning your comrades-in-arms with whom you fought so valiantly is synonymous with cowardice and betrayal. It is also shooting yourself in the foot: it brings us all back to square one in the fight against international jihadism. And this time without allies on the ground.

Republican Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell was right when he stated, "a precipitous withdrawal of U.S forces from Syria would only benefit Russia, Iran, and the Assad regime and increase the risk that ISIS and other terrorist groups regroup."

Europe cannot hide behind America. It cannot continue mere lipservice towards the Kurds, not least when so many European citizens fought for ISIS and are held prisoner in this region.

That France, the UK and Germany demanded the UN Security Council meet today by is a welcome development. But any international effort that does not result in a no-fly-zone on North Syria and protection for its ethnic minorities will be a smokescreen at best – and at worst, a knife in the back of our Kurdish allies and brothers-in-arms.

Akil Marceau is the former director of the Representation of the Regional Government of Iraqi Kurdistan in Paris

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