When the Turks are “just passing through” a territory, sometimes they stay 500 years. Just ask the Bulgarians, who spent 500 years under violent Ottoman rule. And let’s not forget the Turkish genocide against the Armenians in the First World War that the Turkish state continues to vehemently deny to this day.
That’s why when I heard the news that US president Donald Trump had let Turkey’s Erdogan enter the Kurdish parts of northern Syria, I was deeply concerned. This is genuinely bad news.
The decision is an American betrayal of the Kurds who carried the battle against Islamic State on their shoulders. As close American allies (until recently) in the fight against this tumor, the Kurds don’t deserve this, particularly after the Kurds dismantled their defenses on the border with Turkey to redirect all forces to the battle with IS fighters under the promise that the Kurds would be protected by the US against possible Turkish attacks. That's why the decision leaves Kurdish commanders absolutely puzzled at the moment.
By all means, what Erdogan has planned will not be a peaceful resettlement of Syrians “going back home.” Under the pretext of resettling refugees back in Syria – but note, in the northern Kurdish territories – Erdogan’s forces are expected to wipe out chunks of the Kurdish population, fighters and civilians alike.
Erdogan has waved his finger at Kurdish fighters in Syria, more than once, calling them terrorists. Trump’s decision to give Erdogan the green light to act is in a stark contrast with his previous promises and statements that the US will protect the Kurds. As recently as January this year, Trump promised to destroy Turkey’s economy if they attacked the Kurds.
What has caused this 180-degree U-turn - and if this abrupt decision is related to Trump’s impeachment inquiry - is anybody’s guess at this point. A US withdrawal has certainly been in the cards but has so far been resisted up - until now. So, the question remains about what Turkey offered Trump at this point, in the middle of heated impeachment calls.
The US is sending allies across the Middle East – and elsewhere in the world – the wrong message, and it is clear to all “we will use you until you’ve done your part and then we will throw you at the wolves.” This harms American credibility in the Middle East and its global leadership at large.
Another message being read from this decision is that US foreign policy can change overnight, on a whim.
It is my prediction that we are witnessing the beginning of a Turkish genocide on the Kurds. Trump will be, in part, to blame. That’s just not how you do foreign policy.
Iveta Cherneva is a security and human rights author who previously served at the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and worked for the US congress.
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