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Dumped by the US, Kurds are the big losers in Syria

Christiane Waked (Regional Mix)
Filed on December 29, 2018 | Last updated on December 29, 2018 at 10.04 pm

Erdogan should look at ways to stablise the economy and offer a safe environment for its citizens.

Kurds feel betrayed in the wake of the abrupt announcement by US President Donald Trump to pull out 2,000 US troops deployed in Syria. The Kurdish Militia of the People's Protection Units (YPG) served as the backbone of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), and were key partners of Washington in the fight against Daesh. The YPG stood by the Americans and have lost 8,000 in this fight. Now they are left on their own.

But it is not just the Kurds who are disappointed with Trump's decision. US Secretary of Defence General James Mattis announced his departure right after Trump made the decision. In his resignation letter, Mattis highlighted the importance of respecting allies and confronting strategic adversaries for ensuring US national security. Several other US senators also feel the same.

Joni Ernst, for instance, wrote: "We are committed to our partners on the ground to see this fight to the end, and we are now turning our back on their good faith efforts and sacrifices. Our departure will only serve to encourage reemergence of Daesh, embolden Russia, encourage Iran's malign activity."

Meanwhile, Kurds have suffered losses at the hands of the Turkish military operations. They lost Afrin, and now they fear defeat in Rojava. The campaign - "Do not abandon Rojava" is trending on social media, as Kurds fear the Turkish army could soon launch an incursion into the territories abandoned by the Americans, and take control of the border.

However, Kurds lack a clear-eyed strategy. They are fragmented along political lines, which makes them an easy target. Time and again they have been used as proxies by different forces. The Kurds must learn when and how to bargain. They should look at the bigger picture and play their cards strategically, even if that means exploring channels with the Syrian regime and Russia. Despite promises made by the US, the tide is against them and there is no support from the international community. Turkey also refuses to allow any sort of expansion of the Kurds coming from the Zagros-Taurus mountains.

Syrian Kurds who have taken shelter in Lebanon feel that it is time their leaders took some wise decision to stop the bloodshed, and ensure they are not used as scapegoats. Hanan Othman, head of the Nowruz Social Cultural Association of the Lebanese Kurds, said: "It is possible that Turkey paid a price for the American withdrawal. For example, Turkey's approval of the Patriot missile defence system, which came on the same day as the withdrawal announcement, shows that there is some kind of coordination between Washington and Ankara.

"Countries must respect the great sacrifices made by the Kurdish people (.). Erdogan is determined to exterminate these people in front of the world, what happened in Afrin is the best proof of that."

However, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan must realise that unlike Daesh, Kurds are not foreign fighters who depend on funding from a third party. They are locals who know their land; who have been there for generations. They are true warriors, who don't depend on drugs or oil traffic to manage their affairs. Years of oppression have neither affected their determination nor their objectives and now, more than ever, they know that the stakes are high. Erdogan should not oppress Kurds as it could create more problems in his own country.

Christiane Waked is a risk analyst based in Beirut


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