Trump’s betrayal of the Kurds will likely go down as the greatest American foreign policy disaster since the invasion of Iraq. While the cost, destruction, death toll and moral miasma of the invasion of Iraq are unparalleled, the Kurdish betrayal is uniquely bad in a key way: America’s imperialist misadventures against perceived enemies are sadly commonplace, but rarely have we abandoned a longtime ally in such a shameful manner. The repercussions of doing so will resonate to the benefit of America’s foes for decades to come.
Even now the Kurds, facing a genocide by the Turks and abandoned by us, have been forced to take up an alliance with Russia, Iran and Syrian butcher Assad:
Kurdish forces long allied with the United States in Syria announced a new deal on Sunday with the government in Damascus, a sworn enemy of Washington that is backed by Russia, as Turkish troops moved deeper into their territory and President Trump ordered the withdrawal of the American military from northern Syria.
The sudden shift marked a major turning point in Syria’s long war.
For five years, United States policy relied on collaborating with the Kurdish-led forces both to fight the Islamic State and to limit the influence of Iran and Russia, which support the Syrian government, with a goal of maintaining some leverage over any future settlement of the conflict.
On Sunday, after Mr. Trump abruptly abandoned that approach, American leverage appeared all but gone. That threatened to give President Bashar al-Assad and his Iranian and Russian backers a free hand. It also jeopardized hard-won gains against the Islamic State — and potentially opened the door for its return.
If that story reads like a tragic funeral dirge, it should.
One has to wonder, too, at Trump’s motivations in making this decision. It jeopardizes his standing with the jury of Republican senators who will be deciding on impeachment. It functionally saves the American taxpayer very little money. And what does Trump care about saving taxpayer money, anyway? This fiscally profligate president is running a trillion dollar annual deficit.
Is it the Trump Towers in Istanbul? Did Turkish authoritarian tyrant Erdogan promise Trump a special deal? Was it to please the Saudis somehow (though it doesn’t make sense that the Saudis would want to see a Kurdish-Iranian alliance)? Or was it explicitly to benefit the Russians?
We still don’t know, no one on the inside is talking and the president isn’t answering honestly.
We have to start asking who the president is working for, exactly. It’s not hyperbole to suspect that Trump may literally be compromised either by greed or blackmail, serving either as a knowing or unwitting asset of a hostile foreign power. Because nothing about this decision to betray the Kurds is on behalf of any American constituency.
The troops are angry and ashamed. Both Republicans and Democrats are furious. The Israeli government, including the far right, is apoplectic. So who, exactly, is Trump doing this for? And what is the payoff?
Americans deserve to know, and quickly. Before this “president” can do any further damage.
David Atkins is a writer, activist and research professional living in Santa Barbara. He is a contributor to the Washington Monthly’s Political Animal and president of The Pollux Group, a qualitative research firm.
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