By Owei Lakemfa
PRESIDENT Donald Trump on Sunday October 6 disclosed on phone to his Turkish counterpart, President Recep Tayyip Erdoan, that America was withdrawing its troops with immediate effect from northern Syria. His tone indicated that America was abandoning its Kurdish ‘allies’ at the mercy of merciless Turkey. Erdogan took the hint and initiative: three days later, the Turkish military began shelling Kurdish positions and rolling into Syria.
America’s moves were an indication that its military misadventure in Syria has run full circle; it was a myopic plan to effect regime change in that country.
It was a strategy perfected in Libya against the Ghadaffi administration. What was done in Libya was to train and arm Islamic fundamentalists, ignite renewed protests in Benghazi on February 15, 2011 and within hours, turn out the fighters that had been armed by Switzerland, France, Moldovia, Egypt and Qatar. Then the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, NATO, provided air cover for the so-called rebels and carried out aerial bombardment of the legitimate Libyan armed forces. A final NATO air strike against Ghadaffi’s convoy led to his being injured, captured and summarily executed.
The result is that some 20,000 Libyans were killed, 50,000 injured, over 4,000 missing and the country devastated. Today, eight years later, there are at least four rival governments fighting for control of Libya. Those were collateral damages; the important mission to execute regime change was accomplished.
The same script was written for Syria. But things went spectacularly wrong. The protests began as planned and the trained armed groups immediately surfaced to seize towns and cities as happened in Libya. However, the two strongest groups, the Al-Nustra Front and the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant, ISIS, trained, armed and financed by America, its NATO and Arab allies, developed their own agenda. The ISIS in particularly became like a rabid dog attacking its owners. Rather than stick to instructions, it developed its own agenda, seizing Iraqi cities and creating a Caliphate which regarded its creators and financiers as infidels.
Turkey allowed the foreign ISIS fighters recruited from Europe to transit legitimately through its airport and land borders. It also became the rogue Caliphate’s biggest trading partner; buying Iraqi and Syrian oil stolen by ISIS and passing them freely through the Reyhanli Checkpoint. A second problem was that the Syrians fought hard and refused to give up their country. In the process, the Russians lent them a helping hand and other fighters like the Hezbollah teamed up with the Syrian military to trounce the so-called rebels. With ISIS becoming a Frankenstein monster, America and its allies had no choice but turn their weapons on the terrorists.
In the war against ISIS, the Turks refused to be involved while the Iraqis were too weak to fight. Not to forget that the bulk of ISIS are Iraqis. But the Kurds who had established a strong region in Iraq enthusiastically threw themselves into the war against the ISIS terrorists who were attacking all groups, including Kurdish populations.
The battle field of Syria was quite horrific with throat-slicing ISIS fighters at their most brutal. It was the most unlikely place to find over two thousand young beautiful ladies, gun in hand, who turned out to be beautiful fighters. The beastly ISIS terrorists who thought they were fighting a holy war believed that those killed in combat by women, will not make heaven. So they tried to avoid the women fighters. The courageous women took the fight to the cowardly terrorists and in battle after battle, from Kirkuk to the Turkish borders, trounced the ISIS fighters. These women were fierce fighters who refuse to surrender, conscious that if captured, the fate that awaited them was rape and execution.
These brave women who staked their lives to save the world from ISIS were Kurds; part of the Peshmerga, the Kurdish fighting force. The Kurds with aerial cover from the Americans and Europeans, crushed ISIS, sending many of them to deserved graves and capturing thousands. However, in their victory, Turkey, which had been instrumental to the passage of foreign fighters from Europe, tagged the Kurds as ‘terrorists’ who must be crushed. Now, President Trump without consulting the Kurds or working out how they will be protected against Turkish resolve to cleanse northern Syria of Kurds and replace them with Arab populations, suddenly decided to withdraw American troops in the region. The Trump body language was that the coast was clear for the expected Turkish invasion.
The Kurds were not part of the revolt against the elected Syrian government and had no business taking up arms against the Syrian nation. Last week, they realised that the philosophy of America is based on self-interest and that unlike the Turks, they are of no strategic value to the Americans. Confronted with the American policy of Use, Shed, Abandon (USA) the Kurds were left with two options: be massacred by the Turks or seek protection from the Syrian government. They choose the former. Within hours and under Turkish attacks, they let in Syrian troops into areas they still held.
Despite being geographically contiguous, with a common language and culture and being the fourth largest group in the Middle East, the 30-35 million Kurds have been denied a country of their own.
They were part of the Ottoman Empire, and when the empire was defeated in the First World War, the victorious Western allies made provision for a Kurdish state in the 1920 Treaty of Sevres. However, at a meeting in Lausanne, Switzerland on July 24, 1923, France, Britain, Italy, Japan, Greece, Rumania and the kingdoms of Serbs, Croats and Slovenia traded in the Kurdish state with Turkey, refusing to recognise the Kurdistan as a separate state. They merged parts of the Kurdistan into new Turkey.
So, the Kurds were sliced into neigbouring countries, becoming minority populations in five countries: South-Eastern Turkey, North-Eastern Syria, South-Western Armenia, North-Western Iran and Northern Iraq. So, from colonial times, the Kurds have been sacrificial lamb offered first by the colonialists, then their neigbours, and now by the Americans.
In the war against ISIS, the various Kurdish groups united and fought as a united army. With the victory over the ISIS, and now having war-tested combatants, the Turks are afraid that the Kurds would make a bid for an independent country. So it labeled them terrorists, a term it had used for the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, PKK, which has fought for three decades for autonomy from Turkey. The Kurds complain that Turkey in denying them the use of their names, costumes, language and referring to them not as Kurds, but “Mountain Turks’ is working at genocide.
I hope the Syrian army will repel the Turkish invaders and save the hapless Kurds in northern Syria from annihilation.