On Sunday, the Trump White House suddenly announced a complete reversal of U.S. foreign policy by endorsing military action by Turkey against American allies who literally led the fight to defeat ISIS in the region. This hasty decision, which Turkey immediately capitalized upon, could very well lead to the mass genocide of our allies and it must be condemned.
For the last few years, America’s strategy to defeat ISIS in northern Syria has relied on a coalition of more than 60,000 local fighters known as the Syrian Democratic Forces, or SDF, who are largely Kurdish minorities. Neighboring Turkey, who views the U.S.-backed SDF minority as terrorists, was angered when America began supplying SDF Kurds with weapons and special forces operators in 2014 as strategic support to defeat ISIS.
All the while, Turkey has pursued a so-called 20-mile “safe zone” into Syria where the SDF and Kurdish populations live. As part of a recent “security mechanism” agreement to appease the Turkish state, the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) went so far as to convince the SDF to remove their heavy weapons and defensive barriers along the Syria-Turkey border in exchange for the promise of continued U.S. air and ground patrols to prevent a Turkish invasion.
And yet remarkably, Trump upended this promise and policy with a press statement, “Today, President Donald J. Trump spoke with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey by telephone. Turkey will soon be moving forward with its long-planned operation into Northern Syria.” No warnings were given to civilians or allies on the ground. By Wednesday, Erdogan had commenced his pre-planned attacks on Kurdish forces, which shockingly, Trump approved.
This is a sickening betrayal of our Kurdish allies and American values. Trump absolutely knows the grave danger that Turkey poses to Kurds in Syria.
In January, at the G20 Summit, he told reporters, “[President of Turkey Erdogan] wanted to wipe out, he has a big problem with the Kurds, as everyone knows, and he had a 65,000-man army at the border, and he was going to wipe out the Kurds who helped us with ISIS, we took out the Caliphate, we have 100% of the Caliphate, and I called him and I asked him not to do it. They are, I guess, natural enemies of his, or Turkey’s, and he hasn’t done it. They were lined up to go out and wipe out the people that we just defeated the ISIS Caliphate with, and I said “You can’t do that.” You can’t do it, and he didn’t do it.”
Trump also promised to “devastate Turkey economically if they hit the Kurds.”
Likewise, members of the President’s own party are well-aware of the dangers of abandoning our allies who helped defeat ISIS. Republican Rep. Liz Cheney, whose father Vice President Dick Cheney was a chief architect of the 2003 U.S. Invasion of Iraq, wrote “News from Syria is sickening … Impossible to understand why @realDonaldTrump is leaving America’s allies to be slaughtered and enabling the return of ISIS.”
GOP Senator Lindsey Graham, a stalwart Trump ally, tweeted “America is better than this. Please stand up to Turkey, Mr. President.” Senator Marco Rubio also blasted Trump, saying the President had made “a deal with Erdogan allowing him to wipe [the Kurds] out. Damage to our reputation & national interest will be extraordinary & long lasting.”
We must strongly condemn President Trump’s rash decision to suddenly abandon our Kurdish allies who have battled so bravely against our common enemy. Not only did the Kurdish-SDF lead the fight to defeat ISIS, but we convinced them -on behalf of Turkey- to disarm and dismantle their military posts in exchange for security – a promise that Trump is now breaking. Beyond a breached agreement, it is sacred betrayal of our honor.
Who will ever trust America again?
This reckless double-cross of one of our strongest strategic partners in the Middle East will cause everlasting damage to the reputation of the United States. It will jeopardize our alliances for decade to come, and could cause the entire region to tailspin into chaos sparked off by the very Turkish military operations this White House just endorsed. Like the Kissinger betrayal in 1975, which set off repeated genocides against the Kurdish people, Trump’s decision is a stain that must be fervently opposed by all Americans.
A young Kurdish fighter. This young girl started fighting at age 19 and we are now abandoning her on the battlefield. Our allies are watching and wil remember this. pic.twitter.com/6Ggl11nO2m
— Richard N. Ojeda, II (@VoteOjeda2020) October 9, 2019
America is a nation of principle, honor and commitment. But abandoning our Kurdish allies in Syria is tantamount to leaving an American soldier behind to die alone on the battlefield. We shouldn’t tolerate it because it runs counter to everything our country stands for. As such, I call on every U.S. citizen and sitting member of Congress to call out and pressure the Trump administration to reverse this serious betrayal. If anything, our National Security depends on it.
Failing to honor agreements now with our friends may one day cause America to stand alone on the world stage. We cannot abandon our Kurdish allies.