Trump, Erdogan and the Kurds: A Mess Is Created
The Middle East is like a cauldron over a fire. The entire region follows the Muslim faith but clans, tribes and sectarian groups dominate the scenario.
Part of the problem lies in the Ottoman Empire which is supposed to be the biggest empire in world history and lasted for close to a thousand years. Turkey considers itself as the inheritor of the Ottoman Empire yet the fact is that it is no longer the military power it was. President Erdogan is trying his best to bring the old glory of Turkey back and this is the genesis of the Turkish invasion of the Kurds in Syria.
As is well known after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire the entire region was carved by the British and French and a series of new states created along geometrical lines. This resulted in many ethnic populations being spread across many countries. The Kurds are one such group that is spread over Iraq, Syria, and Turkey. They have been fighting for a separate homeland for many decades.
Entry of America
After the end of World War II, and the collapse of the British and French as imperialist powers, the United States entered the Middle East in a big way. Part of this entry was conditioned by a fear of communist Russia and this lead to the ill-fated Baghdad pact. The Americans moved in a big way into Iraq and bolstered the Saudi regime as a reliable ally. They also put their eggs in the basket of the Shah of Iran but unfortunately, the Shah's regime collapsed like a pack of cards
The Americans were however consistent in their approach in the Middle East. With the rise of ISIS they made it their number one priority to destroy the terror group in Syria and Northern Iraq The Kurds looking for an opening for independence joined the Americans in their fight against ISIS. The US was able to prevail over the Isis with the help of the Kurds.
The Kurds are a tribal sect that is spread over areas in Turkey Syria and Iraq. They have been waging a war against the Turkish Army for many decades. Turkey has vowed to destroy the Kurds and was looking for a way not only to destroy the Kurds but to exert influence on the lines of the Ottoman Empire. The Arabs who were ruled by the Turks for many centuries have been weak and even now they are unable to respond to the aggressive actions of Turkey.
Trump plays his card
This is where the American president Donald Trump comes in the picture. Despite cover-up by the best of supporters of Donald Trump, he appears to people outside the USA as a maverick president who makes a statement and changes it the very next day. In the eyes of most of the world, Donald Trump has to a great extent devalued American prestige all over the world.
The Americans were maintaining a modicum of troops along the border with Turkey. This acted as a deterrent to any Turkish attack. Donald Trump thought it was time to bring the American troops home. Though their numbers were perhaps just 2000 it was a number enough to deter the President of Turkey to attack Syria.
One cannot understand the mental makeup of the American president's mind when he suddenly decided to withdraw the troops from Syria. Obviously there is a catch to this entire story. He was probably scared that Turkey would go out of the orbit of the Americans as president Erdogan has started getting friendly with the Russians. He had also gone ahead and purchased the S400 Missile system from Russia despite opposition from America. In American thinking they thought that in case they did not let Turkey have its way then there was a good chance that Turkey would go into the Russian orbit.
Keeping this in mind Donald Trump took the decision to withdraw American troops. This was the Green Signal to president Erdogan to attack across the border into Syria. Turkey had been waiting for quite some time for this opportunity.
As the US troops withdrew the Turks put their plan into action. The American President was perhaps not aware of the reaction of the world and opponents in America itself. He was surprised that his decision to withdraw American troops from Syria and open the door to Turkey would have dammed America in the eyes of the world.
He tried to make amends by asking Turkey to have a ceasefire and also announced sanctions against Turkey. This is a half-hearted effort and Erdogan who is a strong man knew that he was sitting on a winning scale. He ignored the sanctions. There was also a letter from Trump asking him to think about the attack and not "behave like a fool."
Erdogan reportedly threw the letter in the dustbin as reported by BBC. Trump compounded matters further by claiming that the Kurds did not deserve to be helped as they were not with the western allies at Normandy. Many people have reminded him that even the Turks were not at Normandy. He has further said that the Kurds are not angels themselves.
All this is very well for political propaganda at home but unfortunately, people all over the world and in America itself feel the American president has done something indefensible. Add to this his recent invitation to the Taliban leaders to come to Camp David shows that the president of America is the wrong man to lead the world's no one power. The tenure of Donald Trump as a US President has resulted in a lowering of American prestige all over the world. The situation in the Middle East is tense and the Kurds have made overtures to President Assad of Syria and he has promised to help them.
Turkey's army is not a great fighting force and they will not be able to bring about complete subjugation of the tribes. The reaction of the US President is a warning to all countries in the world. Countries that have relied on Americans military might to help them like Afghanistan,. have realized that at the right moment a man like Donald Trump will just walk away.
My thinking is the US president has opened a Pandora's box and is at a loss of what to do next.
One has to realize that the battle in the Middle East has only just begun and the Turks are not going to have a free ride to victory. The damage done by the US President and the sense of righteousness that awaited American actions for almost a hundred years has been destroyed by President Trump in just one move. One hopes that American president will realize his mistake and backtrack but it's too late and the damage is done to American credibility.