For several days, President Donald Trump was viewed as a traitor to the Kurdish people. Suddenly, he has been “rehabilitated.” On Wednesday, a Kurdish military commander in Syria thanked Trump for his “tireless efforts” in defense of the Kurds.
So the relationship between our nation and the Kurds is back to the proverbial square one.
At some point a new crisis involving the Kurds will break out. Count on it, because the future of that people is among the great unsolved dilemmas of world diplomacy.
Trump was criticized earlier this month for pulling a handful of U.S. troops out of northern Syria, where they had been operating with Kurdish forces battling ISIS. The president’s action preceded an offensive into Syria by Turkish troops and militias that was aimed at pushing the Kurds out of the Turkey-Syria border region. Trump was accused by many of abandoning a staunch U.S. ally in the ongoing war against Islamic extremists.
Then, last week, Trump played a key role in brokering a peace agreement that halted the Turkish offensive. That country’s military leaders said they had accomplished their objective of driving the Kurds away from Turkey’s southern border.
So far, so good. But why were the Kurds in Syria, along the border with Turkey, in the first place?
It has been said the Kurds, numbering as many as 45 million, are the largest ethic group in the world without their own nation. It is not that they have not been trying for one.
Turkish leaders view the Kurds as a terrorist organization because of their attacks inside Turkey. There, a group of Kurdish separatists hopes to carve off a section of Turkey as part of the movement for a new Kurdish nation.
Significant numbers of Kurds live in southeast Turkey, northwest Iran, northern Syria and northern Iraq. Only in the latter country have they been permitted any autonomy.
Be assured the Turkish action will not end Kurdish efforts to form their own nation. It is unlikely any of the four countries where they live would allow that — so there is no reason to expect an end to conflicts involving the Kurds. Given our country’s relationship with them, that poses an ongoing threat of dragging the United States into more violence in the Middle East.
Finding some way to placate the Kurds without infuriating leaders in Turkey, Iran, Syria and Iraq ought to be a long-term goal of U.S. foreign policy. Trump portrays himself as the master of making deals. This is one he should be tackling.