The Kurds, who are the abused stepchildren of the Middle East, have been abandoned, once again, by an erstwhile ally — and this time, it is us.
After helping the United States fight and triumph over ISIS in northern Syria, the Kurds were abruptly abandoned by President Donald Trump, who announced last week that he was pulling U.S. forces out of the “endless war” in the Kurdish zone of northern Syria. The surprise announcement sent shock waves through the capitals of many U.S. allies, including Israel. And the decision was met with bipartisan anger in Washington.
Although there are military, political and moral arguments against the move, the most immediate concern centers on the vicious ethnic cleansing of the Kurds at the hands of Turkish forces and their proxies — who very quickly began conducting an offensive in the Kurdish zone to eradicate what Ankara refers to as “terrorists.”
For Israel and her friends, Trump’s unceremonious abandonment of the Kurds raises concerns about the reliability of U.S. allegiance and support when an ally is no longer deemed useful or necessary to some twist or turn of the administration’s political agenda.
According to reports, tens of thousands of Kurdish civilians have already been displaced, and are the newest refugees in the years-long civil war in Syria, which has brought death and ruin to the country, and destabilized neighbors and even Europe with the more than 5 million people who have fled to escape the violence. And now, with the withdrawal of U.S. troops from northeast Syria, the last vestige of protection and stability for the Kurds has been removed, placing the entire remaining population at risk.
This isn’t the first time the Kurds have been betrayed. At the end of World War I, the Allies called for an autonomous Kurdistan — just as they promised the Jews a homeland in Palestine — from land conquered from the defeated Ottoman Empire. But the Kurds never got their state and remain the largest population in the Middle East without a country of their own. Without territorial and statehood protection, the Kurds have remained vulnerable.
The Kurds were openly aligned with and supported the U.S. and Western mission in Syria. They joined with U.S. forces to help conquer ISIS and other promoters of hate, terror and anti-Western provocation. But now they are left to defend themselves, alone, against overwhelming force and aggression from Turkey.
In response to the mayhem, Trump has threatened to impose sanctions on Turkey — through what appears to be the administration’s one-size-fits-all economic elixir to deal with every bad acting international adversary. But economic sanctions won’t bring back the lives lost to the blood thirst of ethnic cleansing. Nor will they restore the political and military imbalance that appears to be developing in the region, leaning heavily toward Iran and its malign regime. The Kurds have been worthy allies and friends. We owe them much better treatment.