By Douglas Bloomfield
Donald Trump, in his “unmatched wisdom,” has given the Turks a green light to do to the Kurds what they did for the Armenians a century ago. In a Sunday Oct. 6, call he agreed to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s request to remove American troops across his border with Syria, effectively removing an obstacle to the Turkish strongman’s longtime goal of ethnic cleansing of the Syrian Kurds.
With Trump’s help and an invitation to visit the White House next month, the invasion began Tuesday morning.
Message To Our Allies
There is a message for Israel and other allies, notably the Afghanis, in the mercurial president’s latest betrayal of an ally: America’s friendship —and Trump’s word —mean nothing.
Just months ago Trump was proclaiming the United States would never abandon our faithful Kurdish allies who had so bravely fought and died alongside Americans against ISIS. They actually did the overwhelming share of the fighting and dying. But they are apparently no longer useful to Trump, who is determined to lead a hasty American retreat from international leadership.
Just a few weeks ago Trump was so anxious to get out of Afghanistan that he invited the Taliban to Camp David on the anniversary of 9/11 to cut a deal. The only thing preventing that was one of the group’s suicide bombers killed an American a couple days earlier.
Israeli leaders and strategic planners have to be asking themselves about the reliability of their volatile, unpredictable friend in the White House.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) called Trumps decision a potential “nightmare for Israel.”
But it was good news for Israel’s enemies, particularly Iran, which is spreading its influence in Syria and encroaching on Israel’s borders.
Trump Seeking Ratings
Erdogan’s goal is to accelerate U.S. withdrawal from the region in his quest for recognition as the leader of the anti-Israel Islamic Middle East. He is a strong supporter of Muslim Brotherhood and sides with Hamas, also an Iranian ally, in its rivalry with the more secular Fatah.
Despite his avowed friendship with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his Jewish family ties, Trump is seeking rapprochement with Iran, Israel’s greatest existential threat a country that makes no secret of its desire to destroy the Jewish state. In his quest to destroy Barack Obama’s legacy he tore up the Iran nuclear agreement, which has accelerated Tehran’s nuclear program, and has vowed to make a better deal. As when he tore up NAFTA, Trump doesn’t care as much about the substance as long as he gets enough cosmetic changes to boast about his stellar achievement at his campaign rallies.
He justified his sudden decision to withdraw from Syria as keeping the 2016 campaign pledge he “got elected on,” to extricate the United States from foreign conflicts.
The ayatollahs are not as anxious as North Korea’s Kim Jong Un to break out of isolation, but they do want relief from Trump’s crippling sanctions. They also want more than a photo op, so their president refused to meet Trump at the UN last month unless he gave them something substantive.
So the insults and barbs continue, but don’t be too distracted by them. Remember Trump had similar nasty exchanges with “little rocket man,” Kim, before they kissed and made up in Singapore last year and a fawning Trump declared he was in “love.”
GOP Loyalists Critical
Many of Trump’s Republican loyalists on Capitol Hill have strongly criticized his decision to abandon the Kurds, but don’t expect them to do any more than wring their hands and tweet their outrage. They’re too busy trying to ignore his pressing of foreign leaders to advance his domestic personal political agenda, defending cutting military aid to Ukraine and demanding “a favor” of investigating former Vice President Joe Biden. He calls the tactic a part of a noble pursuit of fighting corruption, ignoring that the fact that he hasn’t ordered similar anti-corruption investigations or anyone else anywhere else on the globe.
Sen. Graham was shocked by Trump’s Syria decision. At least that’s what he told Fox & Friends, Trump’s favorite television show. But one has to ask why Graham, who is the president’s closest ally and golf buddy in the Senate, who was blindsided by Trump’s decision, didn’t pick up the phone (he has the private number) and tell the president directly.
One of Trump’s endless boasts is how he single handedly defeated ISIS and destroyed the caliphate. The caliphate may no longer hold territory but it still has thousands of loyal fighters and is breeding many more in the prisoner and refugee camps in Syria who could be released, thanks to the irresponsible actions of a self-proclaimed “very stable genius” who didn’t need the advice of his top military, intelligence and diplomatic advisors.
Responding to critics of his abandonment of the Kurds, he tweeted “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!).”
Don’t believe it. Brett McGurk, Trump’s former top envoy in the war against the Islamic State, tweeted “He blusters and then leaves our allies exposed.”
By giving Erdogan a green light — along with an invitation to visit the White House on November 13 —to slaughter Kurds, Trump will be undoing all the sacrifices by Kurdish and American forces to defeat ISIS, and the net effect will be to release thousands of Kurdish prisoners and their supporters to scatter about the region and across Europe to resume their deadly missions.
I wonder who the wise and infallible Trump will blame for that historic disaster.