Rod Reuven Dovid Bryant and Jerry Gordon interview Diliman Abdulkader, Director of the Kurdistan Project of the Washington, DC-based Endowment for Middle East Truth (EMET). He discusses the impasse regarding protection of Syrian Kurdish allies in the wake of President Trump’s mid-December call for withdrawal of US troops from Syria.
That call was predicated on the imminent, yet unconfirmed collapse of ISIS resistance in eastern Syria. Abdulkader is an American Kurd born in Kirkuk, whose family fled Iraqi Kurdistan during the First Gulf War in 1990-1991.
They spent seven years in a UN Refugee Camp in what is Syrian Kurdistan under the brutal regime of Hafez al Assad when Kurds were being ‘Arabized’ and subjected to persecution. The family was admitted to the US as refugees. Abdulkader was educated in the US growing up in the Pacific Northwest. He holds an MA from the American University School of International Service.
The Kurdistan Project that he heads at EMET is engaged in Congressional liaison and advocacy on Kurdish issues for all for Kurdish communities in Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria. In the wake of President withdrawal, Abdulkadir has assisted the co-Chair of the Syrian Democratic Council, Ms. Ilham Ahmed in conducting outreach to Congress explaining the necessity of protecting the northeastern autonomous region with valued assets: 80 plus percent of Syria energy fields and the country’s a major agricultural bread basket. Northeastern Syria, Rojava, as it is commonly called by Kurds, has a diverse population of more than 4 million composed of Kurds, Assyrian, Syriac and Armenian Christians, Yazidis and other minorities. It is reflective of the secular religiously tolerant Western-oriented values of the Kurdish community.
Abdulkader drew attention to the valued and valiant role of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Force, composed of Kurds, Arabs and Christians providing the ‘boots on the ground’ combating ISIS with assistance of US coalition air and special operations support. More than 10,000 Kurds and others in the SDF have lost their lives in the five-year war against ISIS that appears to be in final stages in Eastern Syria.
Abdulkader argued in favor of a Kurdish – controlled corridor on the Syrian border from the Euphrates to the Iraqi Kurdistan frontier. He says that any Turkish ‘safe zone’ should be on their side of the Frontier. Based on the Turkish and jihadist allies’ incursions in Jarablus and especially Afrin, there is clear evidence of ethnic cleansing and ‘Turkification’ of the majority Kurds from the ancient enclave in northwest Syria. That is evident in the flying of Turkish flags. He argues for a potential mixed US, French and UK force presence in Syrian Kurdistan and a proposed no fly zone. The no-fly zone is modeled on the one the US and Allies established in 1992 following their withdrawal at the conclusion of the First Gulf War in 1991 and the late Saddam Hussein’s revenge onslaught against the Kurds. That enabled development of a successful Kurdish Regional Government in northern Iraq and Peshmerga defense force that gave sanctuary to Yazidis, Christians and other minorities fleeing ISIS.
Abdulkader suggested that a limited US force of less than 500 might be maintained in Syria to monitor Iranian and Shi’ite proxy Iraqi militias activities. Airbases in support of US forces in Syria and patrolling of the proposed no fly zone are available at the Al-Asad airbase in neighboring Anbar province, Iraq and the US funded $ 1 billion expansion of the Muwaffaq Salti Air Base air base in Jordan and others in the UAE. Abdulbaker argues this would avoid continued use of the NATO – base at Incirlik in Turkey.