Kurds And Curds

What would it be like to be a Kurd today? A fighter, fearsome and victorious. A modern-day warrior whose proud DNA hails from a 10th century Iranian ethnic group. After the Mongol period, Kurdish dynasties ruled vast lands and many Kurdish quarters flourished in Iraq, Egypt and Jerusalem. Dynasties and empires do not last forever. The displacement of the Kurds saw mass destruction and massacres during the reign of the Safavid Shah, Tamasp 1 (ruled 1524-1576). Many Kurds were scattered into faraway places including central Persia. These refugees became the nucleus of modern Kurdish enclaves. Less than a century before this crackdown that created the diaspora, the Ottomans ended the Byzantine Empire with the conquest of Constantinople in 1453. The Ottoman Empire was at its zenith when the Kurds were being displaced from their homelands. Throughout the history of the Empire, there were Kurdish uprisings but the Kurds were never able to win any real independent state for themselves. In WW1, the Ottomans sided with the Germans. Their defeat meant the Turks’ Middle Eastern territories were carved up and divided between the British and the French. After the Turks won independence from the Allied Forces, they formed the Republic of Turkey. Woodrow Wilson guaranteed the Kurds the British would secure Kurdish independence in the Treaty of Sevres, a promise they subsequently broke. Despite the betrayal, in WW2, the Kurds helped the Allies defeat the pro-Nazi Iraqi coup. Mr. Trump was wrong when he tried to justify his decision to allow Turkey to attack the Kurds by saying “they didn’t help us in the Second World War.” Furthermore, in 1971-74, the Kurdish Peshmerga fought as US allies against Saddam Hussein’s regime.

Mr Trump defending the indefensible

Fast forward to the present. The official White House statement disputed what many have said, that POTUS gave Turkey’s president, Mr. Erdogan, the green light to attack the Kurds in Syria. “We gave them a very clear red light. I’ve been involved in those red lights and I know the President did that on Sunday.” the official said. He did not identify who “we” were. Maybe Mr. Trump was not a party to “we”. It is difficult to believe that Ankara would be belligerent and brave enough to so quickly disregard and disobey Mr. Trump, had he given them a very clear red light. The alternative truth appears to be more swallowable. The two men had a telephone conversation, immediately after which the Americans pulled out of northern Syria. The day after US troops left, Turkish jets and artillery bombarded Syria’s Ras al Ain, and their howitzers shelled the Kurds in Tel Abyad. Turkey’s Defence Ministry announced they had killed 227 militants and lost one soldier in the three days. “Soldier” sounds heroic, the good guy. “Militants” are always the baddies. The power of words. But the Kurds are not the baddies in this arena. They have been America’s staunchest ally in the fight against Daesh in Syria. ISIS had in our recent history carved up huge areas of Iraq and Syria, and formed an islamic Caliphate. Atrocities were so vile and abhorrent that they shocked the whole world. ISIS started life in 1999 as a small band of fighters led by the Jordanian, al-Zarqawi. After Saddam Hussein was killed during the US invasion of Iraq, his military was disbanded by the US-led coalition. The members of his Ba’ath party turned rogue and joined ISIS. It would not be inaccurate to conclude that the growth of ISIS was hastened from the false American claim about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction.

Kurdish fighters are the backbone of the US backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). Formed in October 2015 when ISIS looked victorious, it was the SDF that achieved key victories in major ISIS strongholds. In under four years, ISIS was a spent force, losing all their territorial conquests. The world owes a lot to these Kurdish fighters, without them, would the collapse of the Caliphate have been so swift? Instead of thanking them and remembering their sacrifices, what have the Americans done to show their admiration and appreciation for these Kurdish fighters? They betrayed them. “Stabbed in the back” is what some Kurds said. Abandoned. Some condemn the “green light” as one of the worst foreign policy blunders of the Trump administration. Merely a blunder? The wrath and denunciation should be louder than thunder. This is not a simple mistake. Let me spell it out. To me, the Americans are guilty of aiding and abetting in the murder of the Kurds. Mr. Trump calls up Mr Erdogan late on a Sunday night and informs him he will be moving his troops away from the Kurds. Furthermore, he tells Mr. Erdogan that if Turkey attacks them, the US troops will not interfere. Mr. Trump then publicly announces the arrangement to the world. Less than three days later, the Turkish forces moved into the area vacated by the American troops and started bombing the Kurds. That to me is much more evil than simply abandoning their ally. The White House had also falsely claimed that the United States was solely bearing the burden of imprisoning the ISIS fighters in camps and Mr. Trump threatened to unleash them to Europe. The truth is they are being held by the SDF. The “blunder” by Mr. Trump could be catastrophic should these prisoners-of-war escape whilst their captors are distracted by the Turkish attacks. Just a year ago, on 26th September 2018, Mr. Trump acknowledged the Kurds as great allies of America. “They fought with us. They died with us. Tens of thousands of Kurds died fighting ISIS. We don’t forget. I don’t forget.” Has Mr. Trump forgotten? Or, does he simply not care? There is no fabric of decency or morality about the man. Americans should cower with shame; they have blood on their hands. The man they elected President has destroyed all the greatness and glory their country accumulated through sweat, blood and tears of their ancestors. This betrayal brings into sharp focus what it means to be their ally. Their word is hollow and meaningless. Without trust, there can be no healthy relationship. It is disappointing to watch the Australian PM stand firm and defend Mr. Trump’s murderous betrayal. Can anyone be so blind to the treachery, the abhorrence, the betrayal, the perfidy? It was a big relief to find no other Western leader with such an impairment.

A further disappointment was to hit the airwaves. Although many leaders of the free world were scathing of the Turkey-US arrangement, it was unexpected to hear Mr. Trump trumpeting about the “love-fest” his trade negotiators enjoyed with China. It feels unjust and wrong that the treacherous one gets immediate gratification for his vile and callous decision which will not only see the massacre of Kurdish fighters and innocent Kurds, but also the potential re-emergence of ISIS and further despair for those in that part of the world. Although unwritten and unsigned, Mr. Trump boasted that the agreement with China will deliver some USD 50 billion worth of agricultural exports to the “Great Patriot Farmers” of America. That is a lot of soy beans for the Chinese to make their bean curd. This is not surprising, I suppose, since they love their tofu.

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