NOTE: I did a new interview for Real News Network about the near-murder of Palestinian prisoner, Samer al-Arbid, by Shabak torturer, “Nurit.” Please give it a listen and promote it on your social media accounts.
For Pres. Trump…embroiled in an impeachment crisis at home, he has searched desperately for a foreign policy triumph to divert the public’s attention. For Turkey’s Pres. Erdogan…he has searched desperately for a foreign policy triumph to deflect from multiple electoral defeats which have taken the luster off his proto-Ottoman political dreams.
With their phone call last weekend, they’ve given each other the victories they each need to hold up before their respective domestic constituencies. Nevertheless, the agreements arrived at threaten to upend the achievements of years of struggle to defeat ISIS. They also mean abandoning a long-time alliance between Syrian Kurds and the U.S. in pursuit of the goal of decimating the Islamist forces in Iraq and Syria. The Kurds have been the single most effective fighting force in this effort. The U.S. has spent hundreds of millions in equipping and arming the Kurdish effort.
That appears to be one of the key excuses Trump is using to justify his decision: that we’re spending too much money and need to be rid of this waste of taxpayer dollars. He tweeted:
The Kurds fought with us, but were paid massive amounts of money and equipment to do so. They have been fighting Turkey for decades. I held off this fight for almost 3 years, but it is time for us to get out of these ridiculous Endless Wars, many of them tribal, and bring our soldiers home. WE WILL FIGHT WHERE IT IS TO OUR BENEFIT, AND ONLY FIGHT TO WIN. Turkey, Europe, Syria, Iran, Iraq, Russia and the Kurds will now have to figure the situation out,
What a callow, cowardly, pusillanimous fool! Though Trump has succeeded in washing his hands of a U.S. engagement he has chafed at since his presidency began, this erratic shift in U.S. policy only underscores how impulsive and untrustworthy Trump is. No foreign leader, and certainly not Kurds for years to come, will ever trust a word out of his mouth.
As if Trump realized he’d done an “oopsie” in making this Devil’s Bargain, he subsequently tweeted this bizarre threat against Turkey:
As I have stated strongly before, and just to reiterate, if Turkey does anything that I, in my great and unmatched wisdom, consider to be off limits, I will totally destroy and obliterate the Economy of Turkey (I’ve done before!). They must, with Europe and others, watch over…
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 7, 2019
Of course, his threat involves Turkey’s treatment of any potential ISIS prisoners it captures during its Syrian invasion. Trump mentions nothing about Turkey’s aggression against our Kurdish allies and the bloodshed and suffering that will ensue for them. Thankfully, other journalists are reminding him of the likelihood that Turkey’s army will engage in war crimes in this operation.
Donnie Bro, Sen. Lindsey Graham, is none too happy with Trump either, calling this phone call a “stain on national honor.” As if Trump had any honor–or Graham himself for that matter. Pooe Lindsey, Trump has made a fool of you as well!
Paul Krugman has also weighed in:
So did Trump just betray the Kurds because
(a) He has business interests in Turkey
(b) Erdogan, being a brutal autocrat, is his kind of guy
(c) His boss Vladimir Putin told him to
Remarkable that all three stories are perfectly plausible.
— Paul Krugman (@paulkrugman) October 7, 2019
Since foreign policy quid pro quos are in the news lately, there are a number of important ones likely to come from the Trump-Erdogan “chat:”
One of the most contentious aspects of U.S.-Turkish relations has been Erdogan’s decision to buy the Russian S-400 anti-missile system. When Turkey announced its intention, Trump immediately threatened and later implemented a ban on the sale of the U.S. F-35, our most advanced warplanes. This phone call may have played a major role in resolving this disagreement, which has imperiled bilateral relations for months. If Erdogan pledged not to activate the missle batteries already delivered and not to order any further S-400 systems, then Trump could reinstate the F-35 order, thus adding billions of U.S. arms export orders. Everyone is happy, except the poor Kurds who have been left to their fate by the ever-erratic Trump.
Over the past month, as impeachment has brewed as a real possibility, Trump has sought a foreign policy victory. He thought he had one when French Pres. Emmanuel Macron brought Iran’s Pres. Rouhani to the brink of a phone call with the U.S. leader. But the Iranian backed out at the last minute and Trump was left empty-handed.
The Turkish leader, on the other hand, has seen his political star sink with two major defeats in municipal elections. He even lost the rematch election which he forced by claiming the first election had been fraudulent. Erdogan too needs to show his followers that he is the strong, decisive leader he has projected in the past. What can he expect? A massive Turkish invasion of northern Syria in order to flush out ‘Kurdish terrorists.’ For Erdogan, Kurds are the same bogeyman that Hamas and Iran are for Bibi Netanyahu. They are a punching bag to be used to deflect attention from domestic crises and woes.
Finally, and perhaps the icing on the cake, Trump dangled a White House invitation before Erdogan in return for committing all those billions to buy the F-35s. That visit could come as early as the coming month. There’s nothing like a White House visit to boost one’s political standing back home. That’s why Ukraine’s president wanted one so badly, and Trump refused to give it to him unless he went after Joe and Hunter Biden. A different sort of quid pro quo.
Many will remember that during the Turkish leader’s last visit, his security goons beat up protesters outside the Turkish embassy. The Justice Department did little or nothing to hold the Turks accountable for their breach of diplomatic protocol, eventually dropping all charges. One can only imagine the mayhem that could ensue during Erdogan’s upcoming visit.
Colin Wright says
You people are literally blinded by your hatred of Donald Trump.
I won’t go into who’s been using the Kurds and why, but now you’re on the same side as Senator Graham. Think about that one for a bit. And that notion that Putin is Trump’s boss would be laughable if I didn’t suspect Krugman’s actually serious. The Red menace rides again…
Richard Silverstein says
@ Colin: Nope, not blinded by hatred or anything else. Nor am I on Graham’s “side.” I have nothing in common with him on this or any other issue.
You do seem to have a soft spot for Russian mafiosi and Syrian butchers though.
No further comments in this thread .
Trump has hit an all time low.
This is an absolute disaster in the making.
He’s just handed Iran and Russia the Middle East on a platter.
There is no US president, “Trump” or Democrat, who could or would choose between Turkey and Kurdistan. American previous regime and military obviously in their naivety thought that they can support Kurds in Syria in the Sunni fight against Assad and forget the other aspects with Kurds. It is as naive as USA would help Palestinians (2 million in Jordan) to form their own independent area in Jordan and then pretending that there are no Palestinians in Israel/Palestine and Israel and Jordan would be “happy”. Any US president who chooses Kurds and so forming Kurdistan even inside Syria looses instantly Turkey, Iraq, Iran and Syria. And then the whole Middle East where most countries have considerable minorities. Also the formation of Kurdistan would destroy EU with the unseen Völkerwanderung this process would create.
Turkey is the second largest military power in NATO, no Lilliput economically and it has huge influence in those numerous countries populated with Turkish tribes. Russia and China would without doubts welcome Turkey and Iran in their Eurasian “defence union” which is gradually forming.
The present US political and military position in Syria was already formed during Obama’s time. It is rather absurd now to blame Trump for betraying the Kurds. What had USA promised to Syrian Kurds? The reality from the beginning was that USA used the Syrian Kurds and could not promise them anything besides nonbinding claptrap.
As said I do not support Trump, but blaming him for this fiasco is not very “fair”. What would be the economical and military price of USA supporting the Kurds?
Doctor Chukwuemeka P. Akwanga says
Mr. Richard Silverstein,
Why is President Donald Trump hurting the Kurdish people?
The Kurdish people fight Daesh.