This week, following the Trump Administration’s betrayal of a long-time Middle East ally, I received a message containing these words from one of my former students in Iraq’s northern Kurdistan Region.
We as “Kurds have no friends but the mountains“ history repeats itself!
Over the past 100 years, the Kurdish people–whose territory includes northern Iraq, northern Syria, southeastern Turkey and northwestern Iran–have been repeatedly lied to, stabbed in the back, gassed and violently murdered by successive regimes from both the West and the Middle East.
The US Government has called on the Kurdish people repeatedly for help and these loyal allies have at all times capitulated to Washington’s requests. In 1972, they were asked by the CIA and US-placed Shah of Iran to rise up against the Ba’athist Party-led government in Iraq. The Kurds were used and then left alone to suffer the wrath of the Iraqi military when Iran’s Shah make a back-door deal with the Iraqi government.
Still willing to trust the Americans, the Kurds in northern Iraq once again rose up against the Baghdad-based government of Saddam Huessein at the urging of George H. W. Bush’s administration during the Gulf War in Kuwait in 1991. While the Kurds did eventually receive US support in setting up a no-fly zone over their northern territory, other promises of oil wealth sharing and possible independence were not kept. Establishing border security was left to the Kurd’s very capable military, known as the Peshmerga, which created a safe haven in an otherwise extremely dangerous and chaotic country.
During the most brutal years of George W. Bush’s misguided War on Iraq, the Kurdistan Region became a refuge for Arabs and others seeking to escape the daily suicide bombings and civil unrest in all the other regions of Iraq. Because of the relative safety of the Kurdistan region, the US State Department established an American University in the city of Sulaimaniyah in the east near the Iranian border. In 2010, while based in the Sultanate of Oman, I had the opportunity to go to Kurdistan to teach during a 12-week intensive summer session.
Ironically, it seems the Kurds are being constantly punished by Western governments for openly working for the very things American administrations of the 21st century have tried to force down the throats of countries from Iraq to Libya: democracy, the rule of law and freedom and dignity for all citizens.
The time I spent teaching Kurdish and Arab students in Iraqi Kurdistan was one of my life’s highlights! In 2017, I wrote about my experiences and impressions in Welcome to Iraqi Kurdistan, Amazing Students of Kurdistan and The Kurd’s Destiny.
My Kurdish students in particular were the most motivated and hard-working students I’ve ever had the great pleasure to teach. I suppose that’s one of the most important lessons those who live through war learn–to utilize all available resources and take nothing for granted.
Even though the tension from years of civil war was sometimes palpable among my students, I found the Kurds to be friendly, intelligent and incredibly determined to make their lands safe and free. They are a fearlessly independent people who don’t expect anyone to do anything for them. They know personally from the hard-knocks of their own bloody history that only they are responsible for their destiny.
Now, the American Government has stabbed the Kurdish forces (and all the Kurds) in the back by opening the door for Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s TurkIsh military to lay siege to the region they, themselves, not so long ago took from the terrorist group, ISIS, that posed the greatest threat to the American way of life since 9/11. These very same Kurdish troops have been allies of the USA for decades, most notably fighting in advance of the American forces in the war against ISIS. They took the front lines in this fight, so that American troops wouldn’t have to, and died in great numbers.
The Kurds have long fought for their freedom and against tyranny, as well as for America’s goals in the Middle East. The only reason ISIS has been (at least temporarily) defeated in Iraq and Syria is due to the 100% dedication of these Kurdish freedom fighters–both male and female–on whom the USA now has turned its back.
The Trump Administration decision to withdraw all US forces from the Syria/Turkey border region is a betrayal of one of America’s closest allies in the ever-turbulent Middle East region. Shame on the man in the White House who made this heinous decision!
At the same time the Trump Administration was back-stabbing America’s Kurdish allies in Syria, the Pentagon was deciding to send ‘3,000 additional US troops‘ to Saudi Arabia to help protect their oil facilities.
In essence, Trump has kissed the asses of two authoritarian leaders this week–Erdoğan in Turkey and MBS in Saudi Arabia–while providing evidence to America’s long-term allies abroad that the US Government cannot be trusted.
It appears Donald Trump is so morally bankrupt he can’t distinguish friend from enemy.
Header Image: Kurdish YPG fighters in northern Syria in 2017.
Wiki Photos via Flicker: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rojava_conflict