Kurdistan is the linchpin to Middle east policy

Trump said Erdogan will “eradicate” ISIS in Syria and praised the Turkish leader as “a man who can do it.

By Sherkoh Abbas and Robert Sklaroff, JPOST

The Syrian war has become a global conflict involving not only Syria, but Russia, Turkey, Lebanon, Israel and most particularly, Iran. And despite US President Donald Trump’s announcement of “victory over ISIS,” the Islamic State has not been defeated, although much of its territory and thus oil revenues have been captured by Western and Kurdish forces. The road to the long-term degradation of ISIS runs through Kurdistan at the nexus of geopolitical forces generated by Ottomans, Persians and czarists. The United States should recognize Kurdistan as an essential component of regional politics.

The Alignment of Malign Powers

America’s long-term involvement in the Middle East was disrupted following the fall of the Shah of Iran and the rise of the Islamic Republic. For the subsequent four decades, the Mullahs have pursued the creation of a “Shi’ite Crescent” connecting Iran to the Mediterranean Sea. The “crescent” threatens America’s Sunni allies – Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Jordan and Egypt – all of which will fall under it.

More recently, Turkey, under Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has been pursuing the Sunni caliphate across some of those same lands.

For the time being, two historic rivals have been colluding with one another as well as with Qatar and Russia at the expense of the status-quo states and the United States. And the Kurds. Under Russia’s watchful eye, Turkey has been crushing the Kurds while ceding influence to Iran elsewhere in the region.

Kurdish aspirations for independence were overwhelmingly endorsed in the September 2017 referendum, conducted in a fashion consistent with the Iraqi constitution, but against the demands of the United States. The US ignored this fervent democratic expression of well-justified aspirations while siding with Baghdad (and Iran, Turkey and Russia).

The alleged Kurdish “overreach” was quickly punished, as Iranian-supported militias in Iraq were permitted to wrest control of Kirkuk and vast areas of Kurdistan from the Kurds, who had liberated those regions from the Islamic State. The Kurds were America’s only reliable regional military force.

Cantons taken from Kurds in northern Syria around Afrin have already been demographically changed by replacing Kurds with radical Muslims Arabs and Turks. To finish the job and eliminate any Kurdish territorial remnant able to create even a quasi-independent federated entity modeled after Iraq, Turkey now plans to invade northeastern Syria. Kurds are rightly bitter.

Problematic Prognostication

The administration initially announced that the decision to effect a quick withdrawal from Syria had been conveyed to “America’s partners in northeast Syria, namely the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG).” But the Kurds and others see this as a betrayal, portending both a forced alteration of regional demographics and a revival of Islamic State terror.

Desperation has prompted the Kurds to mobilize against a potential Turkish attack by approaching Iran as well as Russia and even Syrian President Bashar Assad. The release of 3,200 Islamic State prisoners is a possibility as Kurdish forces on the battlefield need the manpower presently used to guard them.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has said the US withdrawal will not impede the war against Islamism, and the administration pledges to maintain a presence after the pullout. But the administration appears poised to repeat President Barack Obama’s mistake by invoking disproven claims that our troops will remain on-call just over the horizon.

What to Do

To help protect minorities, as the Kurds have done by creating protected sanctuaries, American troops could be replaced with a French-led military force coalition, perhaps buttressed by a newly-recognized expression of urgency from France, Great Britain and Germany. They also could be augmented by a (principally Sunni) pan-Arab Army, perhaps organized under the aegis of the 56 participants in the Riyadh summit.

Former administration counter-terrorism adviser Sebastian Gorka recently observed that the Trump doctrine mandates that America will reliably help friends (particularly Sunnis) who do not need nation-building. This could incline the president to recognize and support the Kurds’ unique potency and reliability against the Islamists of both Iran and Turkey.


The president could modernize the process of assembling coalitions-of-the-willing to accommodate contemporary conditions. Joining Kurds could be carefully populated coalitions comprised primarily of Sunni Arabs (including from the Gulf States), Christians and other oppressed minorities.

• They would be aligned against Islamist non-governmental terrorist groups – including al-Qaeda, al-Nusrah Front and the Muslim Brotherhood – who are committed to combating American interests and overturning the same governments that were targeted during the past decade.
• They would be aligned against terrorist-funding Iran as well as against Iran’s intention to control the production and export of oil from Iran, Iraq and Syria.
• They could be aligned against Russia’s intention to become the dominant regional superpower, an objective that appears increasingly likely.

It’s past time for such coalitions to be formed and activated, for the interests of America and Kurds to mesh.

Yet, during the week following Trump’s withdrawal announcement, matters have worsened for Christians who remain at-risk of extinction in the land where Christmas began. Only America can ensure they won’t have to choose – along with other minorities protected by the Kurds – between annihilation and mass emigration.

Turkey’s demand that Google removes its “Kurdistan” map telegraphs the punch that it appears to be starting to deliver against defenseless Syrians, for Turkey has already massed troops and allies near a Kurdish-held Syrian town.

Yet, after Trump said Erdogan will “eradicate” ISIS in Syria and praised the Turkish leader as “a man who can do it,” in response to a direct question as to whether Erdogan provided any reassurance that the Kurds wouldn’t be annihilated, a White House spokesperson said only that a “very strong message” had been sent.

The president can still act to defend the Kurds. Having signed the Genocide and Atrocities Prevention Act, which makes it American policy “to regard the prevention of genocide and other atrocities as in its national security interests,” the Kurds would seem to be first in line for protection.

Sherkoh Abbas is President of the Kurdistan National Assembly of Syria. Robert Sklaroff is a physician-activist. This article constitutes the policy of the Kurdistan National Assembly of Syria. The authors are grateful for the suggestions from Jerry Gordon of Israel News Talk Radio – Beyond the Matrix and Shoshana Bryen of the Jewish Policy Center. 

January 3, 2019 | 10 Comments »

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  1. more counterargument, easily refuted:

    We Are FOX Business Central! http://www.FoxBusines.com

    Tucker Carlson guest Col. Douglas MacGregor explains Trump/Syria:

    “We had to get out of Northern Syria quickly because there were tens of thousands of Turkish soldiers poised to attack the Kurds … Now we have created an enormous problem for Putin who cultivated both the Turks and the Syrians … Does he allow the Turks into Syria and lose his position with the Syrians and Iranians? The notion that Putin has won something is absurd! This was a brilliant strategy and a clever move by President Trump.”


    [ED: With Trump pulling troops out of Syria, over time, it has the potential to draw

    the Jihadists back to Syria so we can crush them again! Better there than here.]

  2. This was uploaded on another page by Bear Klein; if his only complaint is that Kurds sold oil to Iran [which is awash with oil], this rationalization fails:

    I listened to a lot of his rambling press conference that Trump gave today.

    He was speaking off the talk of his head but it what is important to him came out clearly:

    Getting out of Syria (would NOT state time frames, said others had said 4 months but he said I did not say that).
    Said he could care less if Iran is in Syria or not even though he said they have been leaving Syria and Yemen because of financial difficulties because of the sanctions he imposed.

    He does not care too much for Kurds because they have been selling oil to Iran against his wishes. He said they fight better when they have Americans and the US Air-fighters helping them. He has no special consideration at all for the Kurds.

    He cares what his voters or base care about and what he ran on.

    He thinks “Syria is nothing but death and sand!” He wants OUT!!!!

    He cares a lot about getting a wall.

    Really not so interested in fighting ISIS because they also fight Iran, Syrians and Russia. He basically implied that we should just let them fight each other and the chances of any ISIS getting to USA was small if they did it would not be too many. More of problem for Russia and Iran.

    Disagreed with General Mathis about fighting both Taliban and ISIS in Afghanistan.

    He learned from the commanders in Iraq what they would do and went along with what they suggested. So his mind was changed by the guys in the field. Did not say specifically what they told him.

  3. What the authors fail to understand is that the United States, its resources depleted by decades of failed foreign wars, and now rent with severe internal conflicts unprecedented in American history sine the civil war and Reconstruction eras, is just not in a position to accomplish the tasks that Abbas and Sklaroff want to set for it. Indeed, the web of alliances that they propose is so complex and intricate that only a diplomatic Harry Houdini speaking more than 40 languages, and with unlimited money, might be able to pull it off.

  4. Ted’s f/u note is not inconsistent with the thrust of this essay, although such details are derivative of the flexibility afforded by our suggested intervention.

    I see the creation of a Kurdish state in eastern Syria as a bridge too far.

    In the interim a protectorate should be set up which is strong enough to deter attacks. The various groups that have an interest in maintaining this protectorate as a bulwark to both ISIS and Iran will have to participate in its defense.

    I also see the possibility of Syria flipping from Iran to the Sunni Arabs and the Arab League. In such a scenario Syria might be prepared to offer the Kurds constitutional rights that satisfy them in order to recover these lands. Only America and the Gulf states can afford to rebuild Syria. So the inducements are considerable.

  5. @ rsklaroff:
    This was my reply:

    Thanx for critique; what intervention is explored dwarfs what appeared elsewhere and notes key points-on-the-curve that can be applied when exploring such opportunities as you raise.

    Actually working on f/u that will START with the interventions and then hyperlink into this piece [and a few others] to save words; we will dip onto outtakes from published piece and minimize overlap.

    Comparable to our posture of a fortnight ago, will assess what emerges after the Iran concession impact has been noted; we will not convey info written by others.

  6. Ted Belman wrote:

    This article is strong on the problem and weak on the solution. All you have recommended is this “To help protect minorities, as the Kurds have done by creating protected sanctuaries, American troops could be replaced with a French-led military force coalition, perhaps buttressed by a newly-recognized expression of urgency from France, Great Britain and Germany. They also could be augmented by a (principally Sunni) pan-Arab Army, perhaps organized under the aegis of the 56 participants in the Riyadh summit.”

    Then what? If you are recommending that a new state be recognized east of the Euphrates, how to you propose to stand up to Turkey, Iran and Iraq? If you are recommending that this area be an autonomous area within Syria then you should work toward inclusion the the negotiations over the new constitution. Would that work for you.

    In 1947 Ben Gurion had to choose between a bird in the hand, a half a loaf, or two in the bush. He choose the former.