The real message of the Turks’ invasion of Syria

Regardless of the various Henry Machiavelli von Bismarcks in Government, America can and should do better than this for the Kurds who helped rout ISIS. A Kurdish state is long overdue.

Gerald A. Honigman

OpEds Honigman

The threatened Turkish assault and invasion of heavily Kurdish northern Syria, which prompted President Trump's decision to withdraw American forces, has begun.

Try as one may to paint a nicer picture, this brings back repeated bad memories…

Unfortunately, for at least a half century, America has replaced Great Britain as primary “outside” user and abuser of the Kurds. 

Inside, Kurds have let internal divisions and shortsightedness to allow Arab and Turk conquerors of their own millennially geographical majority territory to do this to themselves as well. Some Kurds even allied with Saddam Hussein, responsible for Operation Anfal and other Arab genocidal actions, which ultimately took some 200,000 Kurdish lives--including many gassed to death.

I had hoped that this time, in Syria, it would be different.

Yes, I knew of President Trump’s promise to disengage from the region militarily during his election campaign. However, I also hoped, with his own “thinking out of the box” moves already having a positive impact elsewhere, that he would rethink the State Department-driven policies towards our loyal friends and allies, who suffered tens of thousands of dead and wounded fighting for America’s own causes as well. The late great William Safire of The New York Times wrote a series of articles about this Henry Kissinger-led disgrace in the ‘70s. 

President George H.W. Bush would repeat this use and abuse, “no friends, just interests,” policy less than two decades later which also resulted in numerous thousands of Kurdish dead, wounded, and displaced refugees in the first Gulf War waged to liberate that giant oil well also known as Kuwait. 

I will never forget General Schwarzkopf pathetically claiming that Saddam tricked America into allowing for this slaughter with the terms of the ceasefire, Bush I had told the Kurds to revolt. They listened...and were thanked by being abandoned. 

And now, unfortunately, here we go again…

Kurds in northern Syria have been leading the battle against ISIS and other Jihadis, prompted by Washington for both of their interests, and now--after thousands of additional dead Kurds, and with ISIS largely defeated due to Kurdish blood and courage- another American leader is again pulling the rug out from under them.

Some additional background information is useful here...

As National Security Advisor, Dr. Condoleezza Rice spoke at the US Institute of Peace on August 19, 2004. Some of what she said was morally indefensible, realpolitik at its worst. Henry Machiavelli von Bismarck Kissinger approved, no doubt.

While she was delivering what would increasingly come to be her (and others’) favorite words of wisdom regarding creating a 22nd state for Arabs (and second, not first, in the original borders of the Palestine Mandate as Britain received it on April 25, 1920, with Jordan birthed on almost 80% of the original total area in 1922) at the Institute of Peace, she totally shot down questions relating to Kurdish anxieties and national aspirations in Iraq, the former post-World War I British Mandate of Mesopotamia. Kurds had been promised
Before the imperial Arab conquests in the 7th century CE, and Turkish and others’ invasions afterwards, the non-Semitic Kurds as Hurrians, Guti, Kassites, possibly Medes, etc. had lived and ruled in Mesopotamia for millennia.
independence there earlier. 

Keep in mind that before the imperial Arab conquests in the 7th century CE, and Turkish and others’ invasions afterwards, the non-Semitic Kurds as Hurrians, Guti, Kassites, possibly Medes, etc. had lived and ruled in Mesopotamia for millennia.

In contrast to her disdain for Kurdish hopes in the new age of nationalism after the breakup of empires in the region, here's some of what Rice had to say about her and the State Department Arabists’ good buddies: "The President believes that the Palestinian people deserve not merely their own state, but a just and democratic state that serves their interests and fulfills their decent aspirations." 

Score: Arabs 22, Kurds 0.

Regardless of the very likely murderous effects that this would have had then, and will likely still have now, on the sole, minuscule State of the Jews, Condi--true to Foggy Bottom form--simply brushed aside the Jews' existential concerns as she did with those of the Kurds. Recall that similar State Department and like-minded gems fought President Truman over Israel’s very rebirth in 1948. 

Despite frequent bloodshed and turmoil in the Arab Sunni and Shi’a areas of Iraq; despite hundreds of thousands of Kurds having been killed, maimed, turned into refugees, and the like by both Iraqi and Syrian Arabs over the decades; despite Kurds having been marked as traitors because of their close ties to America; despite that the most stable and relatively democratic areas in both Iraq and Syria are in the Kurdish areas…indeed, despite all of this and more--Dr. Rice simply brushed off a question regarding Kurdish independence with the following remarks: "It's the role of leadership to convince people that they really ought to stay in the same body." 

Worse yet, her thoughts were simply a typical reflection of Washington’s approach to our Kurdish friends and allies - a nauseatingly duplicitous disgrace—whatever the excuse. 

Do Secretary Rice and her ilk--including Presidents--tell Arabs that they already have the bulk of "Palestine,” and that others besides themselves are also entitled to a reasonable share of justice in this multiethnic region? Did they also tell them that more than mere lip service is required to obtain and maintain that justice? 

Did Dr. Rice (who had an oil tanker named after herself in the Chevron fleet--guess why?) advise a post-Tito Yugoslavia to remain as one?

America led the pack in bringing about Yugoslavia’s dismemberment, virtually promoting a jihadist Dar ul-Islam agenda that had been knocking at the Balkans' gates for centuries. But it won Washington needed Brownie points when it bombed other Muslims in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Regardless of the various Henry Machiavelli von Bismarcks in Government, America can and should do better than this.

However, it seems that we are about to perpetuate coddling up to and appeasing the Kurds’ assorted enemies again - this time Turks. 

There are today over twenty million Kurds just in Turkey alone—about one fourth to one fifth of the entire population of the country.

After the breakup of the Turks’ Ottoman Empire in the wake of World War I, Ataturk’s new Anatolian Turkish nation was in no mood to see additional geographic losses. This resulted (among other things) in ruthless measures taken against any and all others who might even just potentially stake their own claims in the new age of nationalism 

Ankara thus renamed Kurds “Mountain Turks,” and outlawed their language and culture. It has murdered, suppressed, and oppressed them and others as well. Think Armenians and Assyrians, for starters.

And hence the Turks’ extreme sensitivity to any movement towards autonomy or independence for Kurds in neighboring Iraq and Syria, and less so (for several reasons) in Iran.

Currently, since a would-be Sultan Erdogan and his political party are borderline Islamists themselves, forget about any real attempt to control the more dedicated al-Qaida and ISIS-type folks whom the Kurds--at great sacrifice--largely defeated. 

Indeed, an additional worry now is that, in the wake of America’s withdrawal and the real time, “on the ground” implications which that has, thousands of ISIS fighters, captured by Kurds (instead of killed, as ISIS did with them, will subsequently be released on Erdogan’s watch, regardless of Turkey being a NATO partner.

As will likely be witnessed following Trump’s decision in Syria, earlier pressure coming to bear for premature American withdrawal from Iraq also led to a series of negative consequences—not the least being the probable, not-too-distant future emergence of the Shi’a Islamic Republic of Iraq—the likely soon-to-be next door Atomic Ayatollahs’ little brother. 

In Iraq, like the Kurds, Shi'a Arabs needed American help to contain various Sunni Arabs who blew/blow both of them up. But after America toppled Saddam and his Sunnis, the majority Shi’a no longer needed Washington nor the Kurds as much. 

The Shi’a have thus picked up their own version of the “purely Arab patrimony” banner and have resumed voicing the same disdain for Kurds as Sunni Arabs have done.

 “Internal” users and abusers, the Shi’a were just biding their time. Pathetically, Saddam had his own Kurds too...Divide and keep conquered.

Given all the above, it’s long past due that almost forty million truly stateless people, who pre-date Arab and Turk invaders from the Arabian Peninsula and Central Asia respectively by millennia, get their own independent nation on at least some of historically predominantly Kurdish territory.

If Arabs are entitled to almost two dozen states carved out of mostly non-Arab peoples’ lands, how is it that Kurds—admittedly with their own imperfections considered—are nevertheless still being denied their one? Show me the perfect Arab, Turk, or Iranian nation which surrounds them...

Where are the countless demonstrations on campuses being led by chapters of Students for Justice in Kurdistan and supported by starry-eyed youths and activist professors? 

SJP—Students for Justice in Palestine—has almost two hundred of such chapters and an army of duplicitous professors who’ve historically not uttered a word about the plight of the Kurds... If the alleged sins could not be laid at Hebrew doorsteps, they’ve not even been worthy of discussion in the vast majority of classrooms.

With the future of both Iraq and Syria largely in doubt and/or still highly problematic regardless, the existential needs of the Kurds demand that they must be masters of their own destiny—regardless of how difficult that will be considering competing virtual Kurdish fiefdoms, and the opposition of folks like the Turks.

I have no doubt that if America and other democracies support the Kurds with just a fraction of what they have done for Arabs, the results will shine vastly brighter as a result. 
There are barely any other real democracies in the region besides Israel, and it will take time for a decent one to emerge in the new State of the Kurds as well. 

However, I have no doubt that if America and other democracies support the Kurds with just a fraction of what they have done for Arabs, the results will shine vastly brighter as a result. 

The Kurdish areas in both Iraq and Syria, even with their problems, are still light years ahead of that which surrounds them. Consider the role of women in Syrian Kurdistan, and the safe haven for religious minorities in the KRG areas of Iraq as just two examples. 

Iraq was an artificial state to begin with, no more real than Yugoslavia. Like the latter, Iraq’s opposing ethnic groups were forced together for others' interests, especially those of the Arabs and the British after World War I. 

British petroleum politics colluded with Arab nationalism to shaft the Kurds out of the one best chance they had at independence. 

Among other opportunities lost, President Wilson's famed Fourteen Points had earlier addressed the self-determination issue..

The fears of Ankara that Kurdish independence elsewhere will spread to Turkish Kurdistan must be addressed—and they can be. But consider the following:

The proportion of Kurds to Turks in Turkey is about the same as Arabs to Jews in Israel proper, one-fourth to one-fifth of the population. Turkey, however, totally dwarfs Israel geographically. 

Yet, none of the above stops the American State Department and elsewhere from insisting that another, hostile, adjacent, Arab state emerge right on Israel's doorstep, in close contact with that potential Arab one fifth of the country, a potential “fifth column” in Israel. 

Foggy Bottom routinely uses the above as a key argument, however, against the birth of a Kurdish state in Turkey, which Ankara also employs to invade neighboring nations to prevent the potential spread of the Kurdish “disease” to its own “Mountain Turks.”

Regardless, those Turkish fears cannot condemn almost forty million other people to perpetual statelessness.

If there’s a parallel to pre-resurrected Israel’s oppressed, stateless Jews, it’s the Kurds—not Arabs..

Again, for all the attention Arabs get on this issue, they already have some two dozen states. They renamed themselves "Palestinians" instead of Arabs late in the game so they could argue the point better.

Zuheir Mohsein, an official with the PLO's military wing and Executive Council, in his interview with the Dutch newspaper, Trouw, on March 31, 1977, stated, "There are no differences between Jordanians, Palestinians, Syrians, etc.... It is only for political reasons that we now carefully underline Palestinian identity... this serves only a tactical purpose... a new tool in the continuing battle against Israel."

Using this Arab line of reasoning, Kurds should then rename themselves after geographical regions in Iran, Turkey, Iraq, Syria and so forth that they live in and demand multiple states, as well. 

Leaving them high and dry once again, instead, as the new Syrian withdrawal represents, and saying we’ll slap economic penalties on Ankara if its Kurdish victims exceed a supposedly more acceptable amount, fools no one, certainly not the Turks.

No matter what we’ve done or will do, we're largely despised in that region anyway.

Think about such things as the fact that American bases will actually be welcome in Kurdistan—the KRG area in Iraq to be more precise, which may also serve as a refuge for Kurds elsewhere for those who need it...if the Kurds can collectively better get their own act together, that is.

Depending upon what else transpires, additional adjacent historically Kurdish areas may later be added to this as well.

America's hope for a federal, more tolerant, united Iraq was a noble one. But it will most likely be unattainable given the bloody realities at hand, realities that date back many centuries and are still out of our control. Arabism has repeatedly trumped Iraqi and Syrian multiethnic nationalism in the region.

Ankara also still eyes the oil of the heavily Kurdish north. It has always believed that it was robbed of it by the League of Nations when the area was attached to the British Mandate of Mesopotamia in the Mosul Decision of 1925 instead of becoming part of the new Turkish nation.

Again, think one more time about Yugoslavia and the Serbs, Croats, Bosnians, Macedonians, Albanians, and so forth, who were held together only by the likes of an iron-fisted Marshal Tito. 

Saddam was Iraq’s Tito.

As with Syria, and as we experienced in Iraq and Afghanistan starting even earlier, it is natural to ask how much longer will we be willing to expend American blood and treasure on behalf of seemingly endless problems in that perpetually troubled region.

Regardless, the fate of the Kurds must not be forcibly tied, as Condoleezza Rice & Co. insisted back in 2004 (and others still do today), to Turks, Iranians, or Arabs of either Sunni or Shi'a stripe who have slaughtered and oppressed them.

The civil wars in both Arab Iraq and Syria should not result in even further suffering of America’s strangely loyal Kurdish friends and allies. 

Their fate should not remain forever in their assorted subjugators’ hands.

The birth of an independent Kurdistan is long overdue...

And it’s also time for Washington to gain another potentially powerful friend, besides Israel, that actually likes us, in that strategically important part of the world.

Fearing an increasingly more powerful Shi’a Crescent led by Iran, the Sunni Arab Gulf States may actually rethink their previous “purely Arab patrimony” ideas as well on the Kurdish Issue.