On the day Kurds celebrated Nowruz (the Persian new year) and Jews celebrated Purim (the defeat of the Persian who wanted to exterminate them), President Trump recognized Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, and the Islamic State was defeated.
These milestones in the history of the modern Middle East are a testament to victorious foreign and military policies of America and Israel. The military outcome was presaged last year when Trump altered the rules of engagement, and the political outcome was presaged last week, when the State Department supplanted the official depiction of the Golan from Israeli-“occupied” to Israeli-“controlled” territory.
Although naysayers claim that the Islamic State went underground and the Golan remains occupied, these historic events illustrate the deep genetic and political bonds between Kurds and Jews, for, just as Israel is viewed as America’s “canary in the coal mine,” Kurdistan plays that role for Israel.
Meanwhile, some Democrats continue to self-marginalize, as dramatized by the AIPAC boycott by their presidential candidates. One, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, who has met Syrian president Bashar Assad, has declined to say whether Assad is a war criminal while mounting a factually inaccurate defense of the Butcher of Damascus.
Predictably, Gabbard slammed this recognition of political reality, tweeting, “Another example of Trump and Netanyahu putting their own political interests ahead of the interests of our respective countries. Will escalate tensions and likelihood of war between Israel/US/Syria/Iran/Russia. Shortsighted.”
To the contrary, the combination of defeating the caliphate (reversing Obama’s defeatism) and empowering an American ally to defend herself (recalling that Syria had repeatedly attacked Israel from the Golan Heights) has transcended personal motivations, for promoting American ideals globally remains the major human rights initiative guiding Trump, secretary of state Mike Pompeo, and national security adviser John Bolton.
As Syria’s civil war is turning into three new civil wars, it must be recognized that Kurds are the major force in all three theaters. This illustrates why, by mobilizing the “good guys,” it is possible to adopt a flexible paradigm for a reconstructed Middle East, starting with honoring Kurds and Druze.
In fact, now that the precedent has been set that the artificial borders created by the century-old Sykes-Picot Agreement are no longer sacrosanct, territory can be carved from French mandate Syria. This will allow the Druze to be protected by the Israelis on the Golan and the Kurds to gain a homeland. In this fashion, the moderate Kurds would provide a model government, functioning to promote Western values in contrast with the Islamist Iranians and Turks.
Kurds have proven their grit in an effort to protect their culture. They merit assistance, for they are not seeking any nation-building funds. This will allow Trump to help the Kurds join efforts to prevent tyrants, terrorists, and thugs from attaining power internationally. It would also reverse undeniable trends in the post–World War II era like the rise of violence promulgated by Hamas, Hezb’allah, al-Qaeda, and ISIS. The degrading of these forces is more likely to occur when allies work hand in glove, just as the Kurds worked with the Americans in Syria and Iraq.
The precedent has finally emerged. America should recognize a Syrian Kurdistan.
Sherkoh Abbas is president of the Kurdish National Assembly of Syria (KURDNAS). Robert Sklaroff is a physician-activist.