Trump’s Withdrawal From Syria: Betrayal of Kurds or End to Endless War?

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Yves here. Thank God for The Real News Network. This segment presents a measured discussion of Trump’s decision to pull troops out of Syria, with a focus on what this means for the key players in the region.

GREG WILPERT: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Greg Wilpert in Arlington.

Late Sunday night, President Trump abruptly announced over Twitter that he plans to withdraw U.S. forces from Northern Syria; saying that from now on, Turkey, Europe, Syria, Iran, Iraq, Russia, and the Kurds will now have to figure out the situation. The announcement took practically everyone by surprise and also angered many Republicans. For example, Senator Marco Rubio called it a grave mistake. Senator Mitt Romney, referring to the Kurds who supported the U.S. fight in Syria, called it a betrayal. Senator Susan Collins called it terribly unwise. And Senator Mitch McConnell said the move would only benefit Russia, Iran, and the Assad regime. Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told Trump in a call on Sunday night that Turkey would finally move against Syrian Kurds as he had long threatened to do. Trump responded to the threat as follows:

DONALD TRUMP: I told President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, “You got to… It’s going to be your responsibility now.” Really, who’s responsible? It’s really Russia, it’s Turkey, it’s Iran, it’s Iraq, and it’s Syria, and anybody else in the neighborhood. We did a great service to the world. Right now we’re at a position where if Turkey does anything out of what they should be doing, we will hit them so hard on the economy. Let them take care of it. We’re policing. We’re not fighting, we’re policing. We’re not a police force.

GREG WILPERT: Joining me now to discuss the situation in Northern Syria and of the Kurds that lived there is Edmund Ghareeb. He’s a historian and expert on the Kurds, Iraq, and the Middle East. He has written or co-written books on the Kurdish nationalist movement. Thanks for joining us today Edmund.

EDMUND GHAREEB: Thank you. It’s a pleasure.

GREG WILPERT: So as I mentioned in the introduction, President Trump quite explicitly threatened Erdogan with destroying Turkey’s economy should Erdogan do anything that Trump considers to be off limits. Now, this is actually the words that he used in the tweet actually, and he only mentions the captured in the tweet; he mentions the captured ISIS fighters and their families as being possibly one of these things that are off limits. Now, do you think that this threat for the U.S. to act against Turkey will hold Erdogan back from invading or somehow intervening in Northern Syria to attack the Kurds, which clearly Turkey believes to be a threat to Turkey?

EDMUND GHAREEB: There’s no doubt that the U.S. and Turkey have been in negotiations for months now, if not for longer, to try to agree on what kind of policy they are going to pursue and a tolerance in Northern Syria towards the Syrian Democratic Forces, which are led by the PKK which are primarily Kurdish forces. The U.S. and Turkey finally agreed that there should be a safe zone on the border. The question, however, was that there were differences over the size of that security zone. The U.S. and the Kurds agreed to something between 5 and 7 kilometers in depth and maybe 150 kilometers to 200 kilometers. Turkey, however, wanted 30 to 35 kilometers deep and about 400 kilometers; basically all the way to the Turkish-Iraqi border. Since the meeting between President Trump and President Erdogan at the United Nations, there seems to be something going on between the two sides, some kind of agreement.

I think the U.S. has tried up until last week when the Secretary of Defense and the new Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff went to Turkey, but apparently the disagreements were still there until Saturday night when there was a conversation between President Trump and President Erdogan; and that’s when the decision was made. It seems that both sides agreed on an area to be where Turkey could move into in Northern Syria. This in fact was a surprise to many. Although in reality it should not have been a surprise, partly because of the talks that were being held; partly because about five days ago there was an American official who spoke to the media without allowing his name to be used, saying a big storm is brewing in that part of that area and that the United States may not have sufficient forces and that we may be forced to withdraw. So basically that should not have been a surprise.

Also, if you look at the situation and our historical perspective, the Kurds who have relied on superpowers have often been betrayed once they fulfilled the jobs that they were expected to do. This happened in Iraq in the early 1970s when the U.S. provided assistance to the Kurds. The CIA was involved, Israel was involved, Iran was involved; but when the Shah of Iran and Saddam Hussein met in Algiers and reached an agreement to solve their problems, the United States dropped the Kurds and Kissinger said that the United States is not in the business of missionary work. Basically what they are saying: “We are not in the charity business.” So they were dropped.

Before that, the U.S. and Britain also supported the Shah of Iran to defeat the only Kurdish Republic ever established in history–and this was the Kurdish Republic of Mahabad in 1946-47, which at the time was supported by the Soviet Union while Britain and the U.S. supported the Shaw–and brought down that republic. Its leader was executed with many top leaders and there was suppression of the Kurds at that time. There were numerous other incidents where not only the U.S. but Britain, the other European countries, and sometimes regional players betrayed the Kurds. The question is why didn’t the Kurds learn a lesson from all these betrayals?

GREG WILPERT: Well, that actually brings me to the question. You would basically characterize this move by Trump to withdraw as another betrayal. If that’s the case, does that mean that the U.S. troops should remain in Syria?

EDMUND GHAREEB: Regardless of what we may agree or disagree with them or think of it, Trump has been saying since he was a candidate he wants to withdraw from Syria, he wanted to withdraw from what he called these “unending wars”–the last time I think he used the word “stupid wars”–where the U.S. has paid a heavy price and it was the U.S. that has carried the burden. However, he has been unable to fulfill that promise primarily–at least in Syria or in Afghanistan–and he has criticized President Obama’s withdrawal from Iraq. It’s very unclear how sometimes the President is operating and what he’s thinking. He has more than once said that he wants to withdraw and let the people in the region basically carry the burden because the United States cannot be the world’s policeman.

However, here I think there have been promises made to the Kurds–if not by the President, certainly by other officials–that if asked they will back them. At the same time, the U.S. however also wanted to maintain its relationship with Turkey, which has been an important ally. I think this may have been also a factor that when it comes down to basically deciding on who is the best ally wherever the U.S. should go. There have been a number of statements from former senior U.S. diplomats, from some current officials that in the end, that Turkey is far more important than the Kurds. So in a way this should not, as I mentioned earlier, have come as a surprise.

I asked you the question, and I think that’s the real question: Should the U.S. stay in Syria? What is the U.S. doing in Syria? What are the purposes? It does not seem that there is current U.S. policy towards Syria. And on top of that, the U.S. is not in Syria with the backing of the United Nations Security Council; the U.S. does not have a Congressional resolution authorizing the presence of U.S. forces in Syria. And also the Syrian government, which is still the internationally recognized government, has not asked for United States to be present in Syria. So basically the Syrians have been saying that the U.S.–like Turkey, like other actors who are non-Syrian appliers–are occupation forces and should leave. So to return to the issue, what does the U.S. want from Syria? Many of course believed that the U.S. wanted to blockade, prevent Iran from expanding its influence all the way through Iraq, through Syria to Lebanon where it supports Hezbollah, and maybe even all the way to Gaza.

But at the same time, Iran has allies among the Kurds, whether it’s Iraqi Kurds or even among some Syrian Kurds as allies among Iraqi militias. And it already has been and is still supporting Asbala in Lebanon. So basically, the U.S. cannot realistically blockade Iran. What else does the U.S. want to continue? The tension put pressure on the Syrian government so that the U.S. could remain a player when a final agreement is made in Syria? And for this, the U.S. actually supports the Syrian Democratic Forces. They control a quarter to a third of Syrian territory. Some of the richest soil agricultural areas in Syria are in this region, and that’s where there are also serious oil and gas fields. So basically is this also a weapon that the U.S. is trying to use? What is the objective?

It does not seem that the U.S. is very clear on that. In the long term, the U.S. position is tenable, particularly after the Syrian government has regained control over most of the territory of Syria, except for the two areas of Idlib where you still have Al Qaeda and some other Syrian opposition forces. And you have these Syrian Democratic Forces where Syria considered these Kurdish forces to be a part of the PKK, which is the Kurdistan Workers Party, which has been fighting against Turkey since 1982. And basically, many of the Kurds in this area also are seen by Turkey as terrorists. Primarily, this put the U.S. in a very difficult position. And in the long run, it is in an untenable position.

GREG WILPERT: Okay. Now, one of the other main points that critics have made of the Trump administration’s decision to withdraw from Syria is that it would revive ISIS in Syria; the Islamic State. Now here’s what Senator Lindsey Graham had to say about that issue.

LINDSEY GRAHAM: This is going up lead to ISIS reemergence. Nothing better for ISIS than to create a conflict between the Kurds and Turkey. The Kurds will now ally them with Assad because they have nobody to count on because we abandoned them. So this is a big win for Iran and Assad, a big win for ISIS. I will do everything I can to sanction Turkey if they step one foot in Northeastern Syria. So to those who think ISIS has been defeated, you will soon see. And to Turkey, you have destroyed the relationship with the U.S. Congress and I will do everything I can to sanction Turkey’s military and their economy if they step one foot into Syria.

GREG WILPERT: So Edmund, what do you make of that argument that Senator Lindsey Graham–and of course many others–have made, that this would only lead to the revival of ISIS?

EDMUND GHAREEB: What’s interesting first, I find, is that it seems that neoliberals as well as neoconservatives, the hawks and maybe we can call them doves–although they do not seem to be–are on the same page when it comes to maintaining an empire or continuing to wanting to preserve to keep U.S. forces in numerous places all over the globe. But to specifically talk about ISIS; we have heard time and time again–we heard from the president, we’ve heard from senior U.S. officials, from some members of Congress–that we have defeated ISIS and that we have dismantled the caliphate. Although the reality is most of the actual work has been done by the Syrian military and their allies, whether it’s Russia, Iran, or Hezbollah, but not by the international coalition. ISIS is now very much isolated. There are still there maybe a couple of thousand fighters in Syria and maybe something similar or a little less in Iraq.

Yes, there is a chance that they might reemerge. But in fact, if we take a look at the situation on the ground, we find that ISIS now and Al Qaeda have spread beyond Syria, beyond Iraq. We find them in Libya, we find them in Africa, we find them in Afghanistan, you find them in Asia. So basically, these interventions that have been made by foreign powers including the U.S.–whether it was the Iraq war, whether it was the Libyan war, whether it was Syria, whether it was Afghanistan–foreign interventions have led to chaos and in many ways to the death and wounding of millions of people if you count all over the whole time. And add to that thousands of Americans and the wounding of tens of thousands and to the loss of trillions of dollars. But some people estimate it as somewhere between eight and ten trillion dollars has been the cost of these wars, which could have been used to build the infrastructure in the U.S., to take care of the healthcare, to improve education, or in many other ways.

Basically, the argument is not a very sound argument. Because it was actually the interventions that people like Senator Graham supported very strongly, in Iraq and other areas, that contributed to the rise of ISIS; have contributed a rise of radical extremists. And minorities in the region, be they the Yazidis, be they Christians, be they Kurds, be they Sunnis in non-Sunni areas, be they Shia in non-Shia areas, these are the people who have paid a very, very heavy price in terms of their lives, in terms of their daily basically life, and in terms of their property; and many of them have been forced out. There used to be, for example, about one million four hundred thousand Christians in Iraq. If there are still two hundred and fifty thousand there, that’s probably a high figure. So basically, these people have paid a heavy price for these interventions.

So I do not see the argument as a very rational argument that reflects the realities. If it’s Iran, did Iran benefit? Iran has very good friendships, good relationships with some of the Kurds in Iraq, some of the Kurds in Syria. That has not been a block from maintaining its relationship. Is Russia really benefiting from this? Russia does not want Turkey to intervene. I have said they want to maintain serious territorial integrity. This is the number one issue for them. While they understand its security issues, it should not intervene in Syria without the approval of the Syrian government. So basically, yes, Turkey may benefit. President Erdogan who has faced problems recently because of the presence of large numbers–three and a half million Syrian refugees in Turkey. And apparently, recently, we have seen reaction mounting in Turkey against the Syrians. The Turks wants them out.

Erdogan may have lost the elections in Istanbul and Ankara because of this. There were other factors as well, also because of his Syrian policy. So basically, he may benefit from this. This may make him look good. Basically his defending Turkey’s territorial integrity. Also it may appear he is basically trying to resettle the Syrian refugees in this security zone. And this is going to be a big issue if there is no understanding between the U.S. and Turkey, basically because you cannot settle one and a half million to two million in that area. But even if you do succeed, this is going to be a major problem because this is going to create friction between the people who are living in this area, the indigenous inhabitants and the newcomers. And it’s also not sufficient, the area that has been agreed to, at least by the U.S. Initially–I don’t know now–it would not have been sufficient to settle a couple of million Syrian Kurds. So it’s really going to be a big problem down the road.

So ultimately, this argument that we have been hearing does not work. The Syrian regime may benefit, but only if there is an agreement reached. I hear that already there is some dialogue going on right now between the Kurdish forces and the Kurdish leadership in Syria and the Syrian regime in Damascus. If that reaches an agreement where we’re all understanding, this might lead to some kind of a settlement whereby this would accelerate the movement towards some kind of agreement, an overall Syrian agreement between the regime, the opposition, the Kurds, and others. If that happens, that might be a positive step. But there are a lot of ifs here.

GREG WILPERT: Okay. Well, we’re going to have to leave it there. But I’m sure we’ll come back to you soon because the situation continues to develop. And it’s a really a very key issue not only for the region, but also actually it’s playing into the West’s politics quite intensely. So we’ll probably come back to you. I was speaking to Edmund Ghareeb, historian and expert on the Kurds. Thanks again, Edmund, for having joined us today.


GREG WILPERT: And thank you for joining The Real News Network.

SPEAKER: Thanks for watching. Appreciate it. But do us one more solid favor. Hit the subscribe button below. You know you want to. Stay up on the videos.

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  1. Synoia

    Erdogan has stated he wants to restore Turkey to its previous Ottoman prestige. This is just an early step in that direction.

    He has a goal.

  2. Henry Moon Pie

    I admire what the Bookchin-ites are trying to do in Rojava and grieve over what is likely to happen to them, but their demise was going to happen whether Trump ordered this particular withdrawal or not. As this interview recounts, the CIA has already double-crossed the Kurds in fairly recent history. If it were not the Turks destroying this nascent anarchist movement, it would have been the CIA itself whenever it became convenient. The CIA is not in the habit of helping anarchists in the long term.

    The Kurds, especially Kurds enamored of Murray Bookchin, will find few real friends in this world. It’s understandable why they made a deal with the devil, but it has also been clear what the ultimate outcome for this movement would be considering its dependence on the U. S.

    We must end our warring against the world. It’s the sine qua non not only for peace but also for a worldwide effort to deal with our collapsing environment.

    1. Amfortas the hippie

      aye…its funny how we almost never hear about those bookchinite/anarchist/libertarian socialists in Rojava…
      I put them right on the wall next to Subcommandante Marcos for people with nothing who have erected an example for the rest of us in such an unlikely place.
      and that they’re a potential example is likely why we never hear about them…the Cuba Policy all over again.

      1. xkeyscored

        How benighted you are in the USA! The BBC recently ran a half hour thing following a father’s journey to Rojava to find out why his daughter fought and died there. Much more emphasis on their feminism than their socialism, but informative and sympathetic nonetheless. Can’t find it on Youtube or as a torrent, but the Beeb’s website says
        Our World – The Fight for Rojava
        Wed 16 Oct 2019 06:30 Local time
        BBC World News Latin America & North America only

      2. Aumua

        +++ Yes even in all the hand wringing about us abandoning our “allies”, even in this ostensibly “real” news bit and even here on NC there is little mention of who these people are, or the really cool shit they are trying to build, with direct action, and under immense stress. Solidarity for our comrades!

  3. Winston Smith

    I think the internal pressures Erdogan faces from the presence of 3 million Syrian refugees are real as well as the consensus across the turkish political scene that the PKK/YPG is essentially a terrorist organization that cannot be tolerated on the syrian border of Turkey. As for the Russians, there is a silver lining because the manner of the turkish intervention shows the US to be a hapless, feckless and untrustworthy player in the region as well as creating real tensions within NATO.

  4. Carolinian

    the U.S. is not in Syria with the backing of the United Nations Security Council; the U.S. does not have a Congressional resolution authorizing the presence of U.S. forces in Syria. And also the Syrian government, which is still the internationally recognized government, has not asked for United States to be present in Syria

    So which policy is incoherent again–the new one or the old one? I vote for the old one. There was never a US interest in Syria and the sooner we withdraw the better. The rest of the world is not a neocon plaything and the war profiteers who drive our foreign policy should be called out for being the ghouls that they are.

  5. TimmyB

    Trump is allowing the Turks to take the US’s place as an an impediment to the Assad government taking control of all of Syria. All Trump has done is move US troops out of Turkey’s way. He will continue to keep US troops in Syria where they keep Assad for regaining control over Syrian territory.

    Re ISIS and al-Qaeda in Syria, the US allowed its allies to arm and supply both because allowing the to attack Assad’s government weakened him and helped the US goal of overthrowing Assad. That is still the goal.

    Note that the US didn’t withdraw to allow the Syrian army to take over Syrian territory. Instead, it withdrew to allow a NATO ally to invade. This says it all.

    1. Carolinian

      Apparently the Kurds had the option of inviting the Syrian government back in to defend their territory but they didn’t take it (according to MOA). Perhaps they thought their supporters in DC would save them.

      1. Susan the other`

        Very interesting. Ghareeb above also said that the US is most interested in preventing Iran from using the current war to establish a conduit from Iran to Lebanon and even Gaza (aka the Mediterranean!) And why would this be? Because the Persian Gulf is a trap for Iran. They are tired of being under siege. They need to get their oil to the Mediterranean; they want to do a pipeline. And just as Pepe Escobar said, this war is for Pipelinestan. Because the Saudis want a pipeline to the Med too. So does Israel. Apparently so does Erdogan. Hence the bit about giving the Kurds a reservation that abuts the Iraqi border, which abuts northern Iran at a crucial place. This is economic hardball – everyone wants a piece of Iranian oil. Even Israel. Ghareeb virtually said that the Kurds have become a band of hardened mercenaries. Certainly a “workers party” liberation army is a throwback to the 60s and a moniker that fogs the purpose of using the Kurds. Another point was that on a scale of international allies, Turkey trumps the Kurds by far.

        1. xkeyscored

          everyone wants a piece of Iranian oil
          Except the USA. Bush and Obama wanted energy independence for the US.
          Now it’s arrived, they’re walking away from the mess they’ve created. Trump may be exceptionally blunt, obnoxious, unwise and near-sighted in how he goes about it, but I think any US president at the moment would be wondering if there was still any reason for engaging in Middle East conflicts.
          I won’t be at all surprised to see them get out altogether in the next year or so, leaving Turkey/Syria/Iran/Israel/Saudi Arabia/Russia/the Kurds and jihadis and whoever to continue the wars. And sell them weapons, if anyone’s buying.

          1. Moshe Braner

            The US is *far* from being “energy independent”. It still imports a large part of the oil it uses. Don’t let the endless talk about it being a “net exporter of oil products” (products, like gasoline and diesel made from imported oil, not oil itself!) fool you.

            Moreover, a worldwide oil shortage would still show up as high prices at American gas pumps.

            1. xkeyscored

              Thanks, I had been fooled.
              The US is still much less energy dependent than before though, so I still think any US president would be rethinking ME policy with a view to getting out.

            2. The Rev Kev

              According to J. M. Greer, the picture is not that good-

              At present, according to publicly available data, the US extracts right around 12.5 mbd of crude oil every day, 6.5 million barrels of it from tight oil. At present, according to that same data, the US consumes 20.5 mbd worth of petroleum products. Our domestic extraction is thus equal to a hair under 61% of our domestic consumption. Without shale oil, we’d only be extracting about a quarter of our domestic consumption, and the US would be twisting in the wind, its economy hemorrhaging wealth to overseas oil producers.


        2. Synapsid

          Susan the other,

          Iran is building a pipeline to carry 1 million barrels of crude oil a day from Goureh, in the NE of the Persian Gulf where much of the crude is shipped for export, to Bandar e Jask, on the Iranian coast of the Indian Ocean outside the Strait of Hormuz. That will allow Iran to export whether the Strait of Hormuz is open or closed.

          I’ve often wondered why they haven’t done this earlier.

          There are also two refineries planned at Jask, and petrochemical facilities (not sure what that includes).

          1. Susan the other`

            OregonCharles mentioned this access but I had not heard of Bandar e Jask. Thanks. Certainly makes sense for China and India.

    2. jcazador

      exactly, you got it TimmyB
      He will continue to keep US troops in Syria where they keep Assad FROM regaining control over Syrian territory.

      1. xkeyscored

        And to thwart the malign influence of the evil Iran, which – wait for it – meddles in other countries.
        (How they keep a straight face spouting that stuff once, let alone repeatedly, beats me.)

  6. rd

    Betrayal of Kurds or End of Endless War?

    Its both, at least until the destabilized region gets to a point that the US has to intervene to maintain oil supplies.

    While not a fan of Trump foreign policy (if it is a policy instead of series of random events), this is still another gift of the catastrophic Iraq invasion by the Bush Administration filled with the supposedly deep thinkers of US foreign and military policy.

    I still think that the best American foreign policy today is to do a massive push for alternative energy sources and electric cars so that oil can become a minor part of the Western economies and the Middle East can recede in importance. That would also weaken Russia and would reduce potential flashpoints with China. Without oil, we would pay as much attention to the Middle East as we pay to most parts of Africa and Asia. The rationale for going alternative energy and electric cars can be made based on national security, military expenditures, and troop casualties alone. Climate change benefits would just be a tack on bonus.

  7. Frank Little

    Has there been any reports of US forces withdrawing from their base near the Al Tanf/Al Waleed border crossing in southern Syria, on the border with Iraq? The most recent news hit I can find about it is from Foreign Policy in January:

    Under the current withdrawal plan, the more than 200 U.S. troops who have been advising local Syrian fighters out of al-Tanf will be the last to leave the country, officials say. The vast majority of U.S. troops are concentrated in northeast Syria, hundreds of kilometers from al-Tanf. But given the garrison’s strategic importance, sources said the U.S. government is considering a plan to keep at least some forces there.

    There are also some local Sunni militias based there, though again I’m not sure if that’s still the case.

    1. xkeyscored

      To the best of my knowledge, no change around al Tanf. Sunni militias aka jihadi gangs and British SAS still valiantly continuing the struggle …

        1. Frank Little

          Thanks for these. Given the bad quality of Syria coverage in the US up until this point I figured it was hyperbole when they said the US was actually withdrawing from Syria altogether, but because of same bad quality I couldn’t find any specifics. My understanding was that it was mostly US special forces types operating down there, so I’m sure if there ever is an actual evacuation of US troops they will be the last to leave. Not holding my breath on that though. Looking forward to another rebrand of the so-called “Free Syrian Army” in the coming weeks/months.

          1. xkeyscored

            It was US, UK and Norwegian special forces.
            British SAS are still there, don’t know about the Norwegians.

            British special forces, including SBS and SAS and their supporting troops, are reportedly ready to leave Syria amid expected incursion of Turkish forces in the region that could spark fighting with Kurds. According to the Times, they are ready to leave in case the US military withdraws completely.
            However, I have understood that hundreds of British special forces soldiers will be pulled out of Syria only in case if the US military withdraws completely and according to the White House press conference last night “the UK was very thrilled by this decision”.

            British special forces set to leave Syria – Spec Ops Magazine – 8 October 2019

          2. xkeyscored

            And from The Times – US exit will mean British special forces leave Syria – (probably paywalled; you can sign up for 2 or 3 freebies a week):
            Military chiefs and ministers will reassess the presence of British special forces in Syria, thought to number in the low hundreds, once the details of the US plans become clearer.
            The elite troops rely on the US military for resources, transport, intelligence, surveillance and other logistical assistance and will be unable to operate in Syria if Mr Trump orders a total withdrawal. A partial pullout would probably be matched by a similar reduction in the British presence.
            The Ministry of Defence does not comment on special forces, meaning the scope of their activities in Syria is unclear. The government must seek parliamentary approval to deploy regular forces in combat overseas, but special forces can be sent to act on highly classified intelligence that could not easily be shared with MPs.

  8. The Rev Kev

    Personally, this amateur predicts bad times for the Turks in Syria for several reasons. If the Kurds finally agree to stay with Syria but with a large measure of autonomy, then that will be it for the Turkish invasion force in the long term. They will then also be dealing with the Syrian army who will be supplying the Kurds with heavy equipment. The Turkish Air Force would have to deal with Syrian aerial-denial systems like Russian S-300 and Pantsir missile systems which will not be fun. Besides, like the Turkish Army, the Turkish Air Force has suffered under the culling of its officers by Erdogan, especially since the attempted coup. They are not the force they use to be.
    Supposing the Turks successfully occupy that band of territory along the Turkish-Syrian border, then they will find that this land strip will constitute an interface with all the military forces and equipment south of it. The Turks may find that their tanks will be under attack by ATGMs supplied by Damascus to the Kurds. Maybe man-pads too that will give Turkish aviation more than a few headaches. If the Turks go head to head with the Syrian army, it will be dealing with combat veterans of several years fighting and trained in Russian tactics and techniques. The Russians will probably not get too involved but they have already warned Turkey not to try to occupy parts of Syrian Aleppo and have increased their patrols in this region as a reminder.
    The Turks want to cram that strip with Syrian refugees but that could backfire on them. The idea would be that they would be under Turkish administration and be indoctrinated into the Turkish nation. But these Syrian refuges are being kicked out of Turkey because times are tough and they were competing with Turks for jobs. Highly skilled Syrians have been forced to take Turkish citizenship so probably the rest are of no account to Erdogan. They would cooperate with Syrian intelligence to spy out Turkish units and positions as in the end, they are still Syrians and not Turks. Heard once that most times, nations that instigate wars tend to lose them and I think that such is the case here.

    1. Synapsid

      Rev Kev,

      “[the refugees] are still Syrians and not Turks”. It goes deeper than that, RK: The refugees are Arabs and not Turks. This part of the world was part of the Ottoman Empire for centuries–Arabs under the power of the Sublime Porte as the Victorians liked to call it. Otherwise it’s called the Ottoman (read Turkish) Empire.

      There has never been much love lost between Turks and Arabs, and memories are long in the Middle East.

      Erdogan is a disaster in my view but Turkey has taken in more than 3 million refugees from Syria. That is commendable but it can’t endure. Those refugees also constitute a threat to be held over the EU: “Nice little community you got there. Be a shame if all these refugees were kicked out toward Europe.” And the EU has been paying protection money, I believe.

  9. xkeyscored

    Betrayal of Kurds or End to Endless War?
    Betrayal of Kurds, obviously. Did anyone, including, and maybe especially, the Kurds, expect otherwise? It’s hardly the first time, and as Henry Moon Pie points out above, the US doesn’t generally back anarchists when their usefulness to the empire has expired.
    End to endless war? Who are you kidding? Just turn on the telly. The BBC, at any rate, has been leading with live videos of shelling and bombing all day. The war is being revived, not ended.
    I am wholeheartedly in favour of the USA ending its endless wars. IMGAUW, that does not mean stirring up a world war within one country, then suddenly walking out knowing it will flare up again.
    The US played a major role in starting this. It has a responsibility to end it, not just go home and find something more fun to occupy itself.

  10. DAVE

    Trump is not a rational actor except for lining his own pocket. He will create more chaos and only Putin benefits.

  11. TG

    The United States has no permanent friends, only permanent interests. Or at least, that’s how it should be.

    The Kurds used us as much as we used them. They have more children than they can support, which always creates poverty and social instability, and they have made themselves an existential threat to Turkey. We don’t owe the Kurds a thing. Let the Kurds make peace with Syria, and stop blowing things up in Turkey, and if they mind their own business I suspect the players there will just leave them alone.

    But I can see it now: oh the poor Kurds they were our ‘allies’ in a pointless war that was mostly their fault, now we ‘owe’ them all citizenship so let’s just import the lot of them. Syria and Turkey will get rid of a major threat, the rich will get cheap labor, and – combined with all those other third-world refugees we keep letting in – the United States will get more and more crowded and our grandchildren will live like Pakistanis. Win-win all the way around!

    1. Ian Perkins

      made themselves an existential threat to Turkey.
      Or Turkey made itself an existential threat to Kurds?

      a pointless war that was mostly their fault
      First I’ve heard of that. I’ve seen the CIA/MI6, Assad, Israel, Saudi Arabia, al Qaeda et al. variously blamed for starting it. Most writers imply or state that the Kurds got in on it later.

      They have more children than they can support
      The USA consumes more than it produces, then calls it a trade imbalance and blames the rest of the world. What do we owe you?

      the United States will get more and more crowded and our grandchildren will live like Pakistanis
      Why not come out with it and use the N-word?

  12. Pookah Harvey

    Fox News’ Jennifer Griffin interviewed one of the special forces in Syria. He is not happy,

    “I am ashamed for the first time in my career”.

    This veteran US Special forces soldier has trained indigenous forces on multiple continents. He is on the frontlines tonight and said they are witnessing Turkish atrocities.

    “Turkey is not doing what it agreed to. It’s horrible,” this military source on the ground told me.
    “The Kurds met every single agreement. There was NO threat to the Turks – NONE – from this side of the border.” “This is insanity,” the concerned US service member told me. “”I don’t know what they call atrocities but they are happening.”

    1. The Rev Kev

      ‘This veteran US Special forces soldier has trained indigenous forces on multiple continents.’

      I wonder if he was one of those training Jihadists to be sent into Syria. A lot of US soldiers were unhappy about that because they knew that one day they would have to fight them. Instead of running around giving TV interviews, someone should tell him to ‘Soldier – shut up and soldier!’

    2. RMO

      “I am ashamed for the first time in my career” The US has made a specialty of turning people who were no threat to the US and who met every agreement into corpses for ages now. The various special forces being at the forefront of the torture and murder, and this person hasn’t been ashamed until now?

  13. Anarcissie

    It was my impression that what the US wanted in Syria was the Tartus naval base — a Russian asset. This was part of a more general plan of encircling Russia along its southern border and also involved Georgia, Ukraine/Crimea (Sevastopol naval base), and regime change in Iran at least. These plans have now been defeated,, at least for the moment, and no new plan has been deployed. Thus the Kurds are no longer of interest to the US.

    1. ObjectiveFunction


      FWIW, an ex-SEAL friend (1980s vintage) once SEALsplained to me that there are 7 ethnic groups* you simply don’t ever mess with on or around their home turf: Tonkinese, Chechens, Pashto, Tajiks, Baloch, Turks and Kurds. So Team America is now about to go 5 for 7. Or already has really, it’s baked into the pie.

      By which he meant, you can put 3 of them in a detention facility as perfect strangers, and within 20 minutes they’ll form a guerrilla cell or mafia: loyal, lethal, self-reliant and nearly impossible to penetrate or dismantle. Their clannish nature, xenophobia, deference to elders and communitarian mores give them all the tools they need.

      Not a Rosetta stone by any means, but I always found it useful to think about….

      * He gave Basques an honorable mention, but admitted he was biased.

  14. RBHoughton

    Someone has to clean up the mess. So far as I can see, the only player in the game who might be agreeable to providing land for the Kurds to live semi-autonomously is President Assad of Syria. They have their language and their flag. If they would settle under Syrian foreign policy, defence and money supply, some sort of agreement could be made. I heard China is willing to invest in the country once the warriors have taken off their armor. Let’s hope they chose wealth over death.

  15. mrtmbrnmn

    The Kurds have long been the equivalent of the Uber drivers of our murderous Middle Eastern enterprises. They work (fight) long deadly hours cheap with no benefits. With no obligations to them except to exploit them for our larger disruptive destructive motives. We are always on the wrong side of history in these criminal endeavors and the hapless Kurds always fall for our pitch and are left standing in the wreckage after we skedaddle. It is ever thus. It is also their sad fate to be scattered across 4 Muslim countries who generally fear them and hate their guts.

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