President Obama betrayed the Kurds

Trump expunged Obama’s draconian rules of engagement, unleashed American Special Forces with sufficient power to wipe ISIS of the Iraqi-Syrian landmass and returned them from a Caliphate to a terrorist group.

Dr. Aviel Sheyin-Stevens, | updated: 13:05

OpEds ISIS
ISIS
Credit: INN:AS


President Donald Trump’s critics claim that his removal of 50 US special forces from the Syrian border with Turkey enabled a Turkish invasion, and betrayed the Syrian Kurds. In fact, it was President Barack Obama who betrayed the Syrian Kurds by abandoning them to the Islamic State.

In 2011, war started in Syria after an insurrection by Syrian Sunnis against the Iranian-sponsored regime of President Bashar al Assad. And Obama responded with an empty declaration of support for Assad’s overthrow.

Obama did nothing as the regime’s atrocities mounted. He supported an irresponsible Turkish effort to raise a resistance army, dominated by Muslim Brotherhood jihadists.

Obama infamously issued his “red line” regarding Assad’s use of chemical weapons against civilians, which Obama repudiated the moment it was crossed.

As Islamic State forces gathered in Iraq and Syria, Obama shrugged them off as a “JV team.” When the “junior varsity team” took over a third of Iraqi and Syrian territory, Obama did essentially nothing. To President Obama, the Islamic State was a “junior varsity team,” which is a junior varsity analogy.

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was the Iraqi-born leader of the Islamic State, an international terrorist organization. After its formal expansion into Syria in 2013, he announced the formation of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) – alternatively translated from Arabic as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

In June 2014, ISIS announced the establishment of a worldwide caliphate, and al-Baghdadi was named its caliph, to be known as “Caliph Ibrahim,” and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant was renamed the Islamic State.

ISIS terrorists looted every town they took in eastern Syria and northern Iraq; sold the oil they seized; burned victims alive in cages or slowly drowned them; threw people off rooftops, and beheaded others on videos they then broadcast online; kidnapped thousands of women, especially Christians, Kurds or Yazidis, and sold them as sex slaves or forced them to marry ISIS fighters or be their sex slaves; massacred any Shiite Muslims they could find; executed anyone trying to leave their caliphate; trafficked human organs they ripped from living captives and hostages; etc.


Obama was negotiating his nuclear deal with Iran that year. The real purpose of the deal was not to block Iran’s nuclear aspirations but to pivot US Middle East policy towards Iran.
In 2014, Obama at last decided to do something only after ISIS beheaded a number of American journalists and posted their decapitations on social media. But the timing was problematic; Obama was negotiating his nuclear deal with Iran that year. The real purpose of the deal was not to block Iran’s nuclear aspirations but to pivot US Middle East policy towards Iran.

Obama had no interest in harming Assad, Iran’s Syrian vassal, or in blocking Iran’s ally Russia from using the war in Syria as a means to reassert Moscow’s power in the region.

Obama structured the US campaign in a way that aligned it with Iran’s interests. He deployed about one thousand US soldiers to Syria, but greatly limited their mandate, making it impossible for the Americans to have a major effect on events in the country. They were prohibited from acting against Assad or Iran. They were tasked solely with fighting ISIS. His restrictive rules of engagement made achieving even that limited goal essentially impossible.

It was under Obama that ISIS seized the oil fields in eastern Syria and northern Iraq. But Trump expunged Obama’s draconian rules of engagement, and unleashed American Special Forces with sufficient power to wipe ISIS of the Iraqi-Syrian landmass.

When Trump became US President in January 2017, the Islamic State was like an emerging Saudi Arabia, blood-soaked and oil-rich, just awaiting diplomatic recognition. Month by month, Trump shrunk it, without committing vast numbers of American soldiers, and reduced it from a caliphate back to a terrorist group, which culminated in October 2019 with a well-executed raid on the Caliph.

The killing of al-Baghdadi is a robust retort to the condemnation that Trump’s decision to pull 50 US soldiers out of northern Syria was a betrayal of Syrian Kurds. It indicates that Trump could exert significant influence in the region and in the fight against terrorism.

Trump did not remove US forces from Syria. They are still deployed along the border crossing between Jordan, Iraq and Syria to block Iran from moving forces and materiel to Syria and Lebanon. They are also blocking Russian and Syrian forces from taking over the oil fields in eastern Syria.

Russia’s biggest problem in Syria is financial. The Russian economy is in a deep recession due to the fall in global oil prices. Russian President Putin planned to finance his Syrian operation with Syrian oil revenues. In January 2018, he signed an agreement with Assad that essentially transferred the rights to the Syrian oil to Russia.

In February 2018, a huge joint force of Russian mercenaries, Syrian commandos and Iranian Revolutionary Guards attempted to seize the town adjacent to the oil fields. But forty US special forces, deployed with Kurdish fighters, confronted them with massive American air assault that killed over 500 Syrian and Iranian soldiers, and over 100 Russian mercenaries, and ended the attack.

Since then, Russia tried at least once more to evict US forces from the oil field, only to be met with a massive demonstration of American power.

Trump’s ensuring US-Kurdish control over Syria’s oil fields compels Russia to keep funding its war in Syria directly. Given Russia’s financial constraints, Russia would likely restrain its Iranian, Syrian and Hezbollah partners, and their belligerent plans against America and Israel. His maintaining US-Kurdish control over Syria’s oil fields also provides the Kurdish-controlled Syrian Democratic Forces with the financial and military wherewithal to support and defend their people and their operations.


The Kurds are America’s friends, but not legal allies. Whereas, Turkey is America’s legal, treaty-bound, NATO ally that has become an American foe. If Trump were to send troops to save the Kurds from the Turks, he would be castigated by Democrats.
The Kurds are America’s friends, but not legal allies. Whereas, Turkey is America’s legal, treaty-bound, NATO ally that has become an American foe. If Trump were to send troops to save the Kurds from the Turks, he would be castigated by Democrats and Never-Trump Republicans for destroying NATO and starting another Mideast war.

Trump made it clear, however, that America did not support the Turkish planned invasion of the border zone in Syria. He also repeatedly pledged to destroy the Turkish economy if Turkey commits atrocities against the Kurds.

Trump has spent significant part of his term in office rebuilding America’s credibility as an ally, after Obama essentially abandoned Israel, the Sunni Arabs and the Kurds.

Obama reoriented America’s Middle East policy in favor of the ayatollahs, attempting to make Iran the regional superpower. But Trump renewed America’s alliances with America’s traditional Middle East allies: Israel, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and other Sunni Arab monarchies.

President Trump did not betray the Syrian Kurds. It was President Obama who betrayed them.

Dr. Sheyin-Stevens is a Registered Patent Attorney based in Florida, USA. He earned his Doctorate in Law from the University of Miami.




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