Over the past several years, Kurdish fighters have been primarily responsible for defeating ISIS. Donald Trump often praised them, noting that tens of thousands of Kurds have died fighting ISIS. So it was a surprise, apparently to everyone, that Trump gave Turkey the green light to attack the Kurds in northern Syria.
Turkey’s relentless assault, which has seen air strikes, shelling and a ground incursion manned mainly by Syrian proxy fighters, has killed scores of civilians and fighters since its launch on Wednesday.
The Kurds feel they have been betrayed by the United States, their once formidable ally in the fight against the Islamic State jihadist group, and left to fend for themselves in the battle against Turkish forces.
We’re talking about it here, because it may already be having an impact on the Trump’s reelection effort. While Republicans have mostly been steadfast in their support against impeachment, many are furious at Trump on this issue, according to The Hill.
“We are witnessing ethnic cleansing in Syria by Turkey, the destruction of a reliable ally in the Kurds, and the reemergence of ISIS,” [S.C. Sen. Lindsay] Graham tweeted after Friday’s announcement.
“The conditional sanctions announced today will be viewed by Turkey as a tepid response and will embolden Erdogan even more,” he added, referring to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdo?an. “The Turkish government needs to know Congress will take a different path – passing crippling sanctions in a bipartisan fashion.”
Graham, alongside Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), is expected to introduce harsh sanctions against Turkey this week as a punishment for its incursion into northern Syria against the Kurds, longtime allies of the U.S. . .
“I want to co-sponsor that resolution,” Sen. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.), who is up for reelection next year, said in an interview with Fox News. “We cannot have a supposed ally who is continuing to go in the wrong direction under Erdo?an’s leadership, invading another country.”
While the condemnation has been bipartisan, the Republican criticism is particularly notable since it comes at a time when the GOP is vociferously defending Trump from House Democrats’ impeachment inquiry. . .
Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), who is up for reelection next year, told reporters in Maine she supports sanctions against Turkey. . . Rep. Liz Cheney (Wyo.), the No. 3 House Republican, has unveiled a companion measure to Graham-Van Hollen in the House. Her bill is co-sponsored by nearly 30 Republicans.
Meanwhile, Haaretz, an Israeli publication, says this could hurt Trump with the evangelical vote.
Something unusual happened in American politics this week: President Donald Trump was criticized by leading figures in the evangelical community. One after another, prominent pastors and activists denounced his decision to remove U.S. troops from northeastern Syria and to stand aside as Turkey attacked Kurdish cities in the region. One pastor called the Turkish attack on the Kurds “a disgrace”; another warned Trump he could be “losing the mandate of heaven” over the decision.
It was the first time since Trump entered the White House in 2017 that he had to endure such a strong level of criticism from evangelical leaders. They had stood by him throughout the worst scandals of his presidency: The Stormy Daniels affair; his racist attacks on black members of Congress; his attempts to recruit foreign governments to aid his 2020 reelection campaign.
Maybe a little historical perspective is called for. The whole Syrian issue goes back to the “Arab Spring” back in 2011, which began in Tunisia. It spread to Libya, Egypt, Yemen, Syria, and Bahrain. Ghaddafi fell in Libya, but the country descended into chaos. It might be noted that while Ghaddafi was a tyrant, he kept order in the country, and since he was secular, the religious zealots were kept at bay. The same could be said about the secular leader, Saddam Hussein, whose ouster led to reported millions of deaths, and the rise of ISIS. Then, of course, there was Syria’s Bashar al Assad, another secular leader, whose country was largely invaded by ISIS. But instead of helping Assad put down ISIS, the United States encouraged his ouster in the civil war, eventually backing (more in word than deed) the Kurds.
The problem is that the Kurds want their own homeland, which would naturally cover northern Iraq, northern Syria, and southern Turkey. The Kurds already established an autonomous region in Iraq, and a de-facto region in the weakened Syria. Turkey feared that if the Syrian region became a formal Kurdish region, terrorists-or-freedom-fighters (depending on your viewpoint) would demand part of Turkey, as well.
That’s Turkey’s reasoning. Why did Trump go along? Perhaps he was distracted by talk of impeachment. More likely, he felt that he has never faced any real consequences for mistakes in the past, so in what he calls his “great and unmatched wisdom,” Trump probably feels that this, too, will blow over, so he can keep his campaign promise to get out of Syria, regardless of consequences.
It’s also possible that Trump feels that this is a no-lose situation. The Kurds don’t even have a nation, but in this quick action, he could appease Turkey, while getting back in the good graces of Russia’s Vladimir Putin.
Many see the US rollback as a boon to Russia in particular, as it removes Russia’s only military equal from the equation in Syria. The World spoke with Yury Barmin, Middle East and North Africa director at the Moscow Policy Group about Russia’s main goals in the Syrian conflict.
Since the Kurds can no longer count on the U.S., they have decided to drop their opposition to Assad, agreeing to a Russian plan to let Assad’s troops into their area.
The West’s Kurdish allies on Sunday night announced they had agreed to a Russian-brokered deal to allow the Assad regime into their territory in a bid to spare their cities from a Turkish assault after they were abandoned by Donald Trump.
Hours after the US said it was withdrawing all of its troops from northern Syria, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) said it had reached an agreement to allow Bashar al-Assad’s troops into their territory.
“If we have to choose between compromises and the genocide of our people, we will surely choose life for our people,” said Mazloum Kobani Abdi, the commander of the SDF.
Democrats don’t like the Turkish invasion of Syria. Many Republicans are “furious.” Evangelicals are upset. But will it matter, politically, to Trump? Not likely. As Macbeth said, borrowing from the Bard, there will be pounding of chests, indignation, and speeches “full of sound and fury, Signifying nothing.”