The reality that the United States has so far “abandoned” the Kurds in Iraq and Syria now that their help is no longer vital to toppling the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) has reportedly scarcely caught the minority group by surprise due to its historic relationship with abandonment, Kurdish community representatives say.
Kurdish forces from Iraq and Syria have been essential to the collapse of ISIS.
The United States has weighed in neutrally on the two major challenges facing Syrian and Iraqi Kurds—respectively, claiming that Turkey has “legitimate security concerns” for invading Syrian Kurdistan, and vowing not to “take sides” between the Iraqi Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and the Iraqi government in the invasion of Kirkuk. The United States opposed a September referendum in the KRG on independence from Baghdad.
Etugrul Kurkcu, a veteran lawmaker from Turkey’s Kurd-friendly, left-wing People’s Democratic Party (HDP), indicated to the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) that America’s alleged betrayal of the Kurds—refusing to aid them amid Turkey Afrin offensive—would come as no surprise.
The HDP is a close ally of the People’s Protection Units (YPG), the armed wing of the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) that controls swathes of northern Syria.
“Their [YPG] cooperation with the Russian Federation and the U.S.A. was on a tactical basis, and their awareness of the U.S. and Russian Federation’s impending tendency to desert them under Turkish pressure had already grown,” Kurkcu told WSJ.
The Journal conceded that “mistakes” by the Kurds made it easier for the United States not to aid them, noting that in the case of the Iraqi Kurds, they moved forward with independence efforts despite staunch opposition from America.
As far as mistakes by the Syrian Kurds, WSJ reports that the YPG, described as “an affiliate” of the Marxist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) terrorist organization, “established an even more authoritarian one-party statelet, marginalizing other political forces.”
Turkey has long accused the YPG and its allies of being an extension of the PKK, an organization that Ankara and Washington have designated as a terrorist organization.
Despite Ankara’s concerns over the YPG’s alleged terrorist ties, the United States has provided military aid to Syrian Kurds, to the dismay of Turkey.
U.S. NATO ally Turkey recently stormed the Afrin region, a Syrian area held by American-backed Kurds that sits along the Turkish border. Turkey has also threatened to advance further and invade other Kurdish held regions in northern Syra.
“In Iraq, a different military operation by the U.S.-backed federal government of Iraq seized key territories, including the oil-rich area of Kirkuk, from Kurdish forces in October. Baghdad continues economic sanctions against northern Iraq’s self-ruled Kurdistan region, holding out the prospect of further military action,” adds WSJ.
Referring to both incidents, the Journal reports:
In both cases, the U.S. didn’t condemn these military operations, limiting itself to calls for restraint and for avoiding civilian casualties. Russia, meanwhile, appears to have allowed the Turkish air force to operate in Syrian airspace, and facilitated the Turkish incursion by withdrawing Russian forces that had been deployed in Afrin for two years.
An op/ed published by Bloomberg notes:
No one knows how many Kurds have died so far in and around Afrin, where the YPG is said to have between 8,000 and 10,000 fighters. No one knows how many Kurdish civilians will be killed, either. What’s clear is that no one is doing anything to stop it.
That’s not in U.S. interests, to put it mildly. Abandoning allies so publicly and so fast is a great way to make sure no one trusts you in the future. When the reckoning comes for the abandonment of the Syrian Kurds, as it eventually will, the Kurds will hold the U.S. responsible for betraying them.
America’s support for the Syrian Kurds and its allies has driven a wedge between U.S.-Turkey relations.
Unlike Russia, the United States did not have troops in the Afrin region to prevent the Turkish offensive. Reports claimed that Russia withdrew its troops to prevent clashes with Turkey before the Afrin invasion, but Moscow denied them.
Referring to the Afrin offensive, Osama Abu Zayd, a spokesman for the Turkey-allied Free Syrian Army (FSA), conceded days before the operation started that it could not be stopped.
“We have no options or tools to stop it, unfortunately,” he told Breitbart News.