Syria and the Kurds: Trump Demonstrates Ignorance of History and Geography

According to the stable genius, the Kurds are similar to violent children playing in a bloody sandbox. “They’ve got a lot of sand over there. So there’s a lot of sand that they can play with,” he said, once again displaying his remarkable ignorance and monosyllabic arrogance. 

The areas claimed by the Kurds are to the northwest and northeast along the Turkish border. The latter is east of the Euphrates and is anything but a sandy desert—it is a fertile region known as Jazira located on the eastern plateau. It is often referred to as the “breadbasket” of Syria. 

Trump went on to characterize the people of the Middle East as violent and intractable because that’s “what they do.” 

Under the rule of the Ottoman Empire, much of the Middle East remained largely free of war and violence. Autonomous communities were organized as millets along religious and tribal lines, thus ensuring peace. This stability, which began to erode during the nineteenth century, came to an end with the defeat of the Ottoman Empire during the First World War. 

The current situation in the Middle East is a direct result of Britain and France carving up the region under colonial “spheres of influence” put forth in the Sykes-Picot Agreement. Britain promised the Arabs autonomy if they helped defeat the Ottoman Empire during the war. T.E. Lawrence (“Lawrence of Arabia”) promised a united Arab kingdom of greater Syria, encompassing present-day Syria, Lebanon, Israel, and parts of Iraq and Jordan. The British never intended to follow through on this promise and subsequently betrayed the Arabs. 

 Sumaia N. Masoom writes:

Western governments arbitrarily drew lines dividing up the land forming the remains of the Ottoman Empire, ignoring traditional ethnic, religious, and tribal divisions. To add insult to injury, however, Sykes-Picot… double-crossed the Hashemites, who had been promised their own kingdom in return for helping the Western forces take down the Ottomans from the inside. Rather than becoming stewards of one of the greatest kingdoms the Middle East had ever seen, the Hashemites were instead thrown out of Syria, the new French protectorate… In the words of one historian, the agreement was “greed allied to suspicion and so leading to stupidity.” 

The current conflict between the Kurds and Turkey is a result of British and French colonialism, violence, and treachery. Treaty of Sèvres in 1920 promised the Kurds a homeland, but the promise was never implemented, primarily due to the response on the part of Turkish nationalists. The fate of the Kurds was sealed with the Treaty of Lausanne in 1923. 

“Today, more than 30 million Kurds, and millions of Assyrians, Yezidis and other stateless ethnicities straddle the makeshift borders originally created by Mark Sykes and Francois Picot 100 years ago,” notes The Kurdish Project. 

It’s true the Kurds fighting Turkey are not “angels,” as Trump said. For instance, Amnesty International has accused the Kurds of ethnic cleansing of non-Kurds. 

“By deliberately demolishing civilian homes, in some cases razing and burning entire villages, displacing their inhabitants with no justifiable military grounds, the Autonomous Administration is abusing its authority and brazenly flouting international humanitarian law, in attacks that amount to war crimes,” Lama Fakih, Senior Crisis Advisor at Amnesty International, said in October 2015. 

Additionally, the establishment of the state of Israel, made possible under the Balfour Declaration, has fueled wars and conflicts in the Middle East. Israel has a long history of subverting and attacking its neighbors, most recently Syria. 

According to Adeyinka Makinde:

After the establishment of Israel in 1948, a national policy of weakening Arab and Muslim states, balkanizing them, or keeping them under a neo-colonial state of affairs has persisted. The prevailing logic was and always has been that any stable, nationalist government in the Arab world poses an existential threat to Israel… The deliberate and calculated intervention in the affairs of the Arab world is something which [Oded Yinon, author of “A Strategy for Israel in the 1980s”] is content to admit is unnecessary given the artificiality of the states which are the product of imperial draughtsmen.”

Considering the short reach of Trump’s intellectual ability and his refusal to consult history and geography before making simplistic declarations—to say nothing of his emotional attachment to Israel—the tumultuous state of affairs in the Middle East will remain unchanged for the foreseeable future. All Democrat political candidates to date have promised to maintain the present status quo with the Jewish state. The House of Representatives, dominated by Democrats, overwhelmingly signed off on a resolution calling for US troops to remain illegally in Syria. 

Finally, I have no hope for the return of US troops from Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan in the short and even the long term. Forever war in the Middle East will continue so long as the ruling elite control US foreign policy from behind the scenes and control what is fallaciously called “democracy” in the United States. 

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