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By Olivia Pierson
[First published on Insight @theBFD 15/10/19]
It has been nothing short of outlandish to watch the round condemnation by Democrats and Republicans this week of President Trump’s decision to withdraw US forces from Syria in the face of a Turkish incursion over Turkey’s southeastern border.
The US does not have a large combat force there. If it were to send one in, the US would be fighting against the territorial integrity of greater Syria, Assad’s country, which is currently propped up by Russia and Iran. The US never agreed to fight a mission to help the Kurds create and maintain their own autonomous homeland, not for one minute.
To make war with Turkey, a NATO ally, on behalf of the Syrian Kurds, is an entirely new mission which, if it were considered properly, ought to be put to a vote in Congress. That way, all the war-mongers within the Democrat and Republican ranks who are currently baying for a war and accusing Trump of “green-lighting an upcoming genocide” can put their names to their convictions by the power of a vote and be prepared to stand by it forever.
It is true that the Kurds, both Iraqi and Syrian, have been staunch allies in the fight against ISIS, serving as a brave ground force on the front lines. Between the two countries, there exist as many as 90,000 captured ISIS fighters in prisons and detention camps, a figure which also includes their multiple wives and thousands of their children. In detention are also large numbers of “foreign fighters” which abandoned their European homes to fight for the brutally medieval caliphate.
In Syria the actual numbers of captured ISIS fighters vary wildly - I’ve read reports that there are between 1,000 to 10,000 fighters held in custody and guarded by the Kurds.
The base of the Syrian Kurdish administration is a city named Qamishli in North Eastern Syria.
The Kurds adopted a lenient attitude toward their ISIS captives, believing that rehabilitation would be a better deterrent than revenge. In the Qamishli prison, ISIS captives live in air-conditioned comfort watching television re-runs of Arabic soap-operas and even receive art instruction. Khaled Barjas Ali, a senior judge in the terrorism courts run by the self-proclaimed Kurdish administration in northeastern Syria, stated:
“If I sentence a man to death, I am spreading hate. We want to give people reasons to trust us. If you take revenge, people will be radicalised. But with reconciliation we are sure we can finish the problem.”
In the the northeast lies the detention camp of al-Hol, also overseen by the Kurds. Full of displaced women and children from Iraq and Syria, the camp saw its population explode from 2,000 to 73,000 between the months of December 2018 and April 2019. After the ISIS stronghold of Baghouz village fell, this influx of ISIS wives brought violence and murder to the camp. Some of the women used the sharp edges of tuna cans to slice into tents and attack others, such as those who expressed regret about joining the caliphate. Women from Europe reside in this camp too, including Um Safia, a 27-year-old French woman from the city of Marseille:
“We want to live under Islamic law and pray for the Islamic State’s return.”
As a finale to the complicated 2003 US invasion of Iraq, which President Trump never agreed with in the first place, the US set out to “smash ISIS” and kill all their fighters, not see them languish around in prisons and camps on an extended holiday making papier-mâché birds and trees under the eyes of their forgiving Kurdish overseers.
To acknowledge an incredible layer of complexity to this theatre of war, apart from just the alphabet soup of their various organisations, the Kurd’s major party happens to be a Marxist terrorist group, the PKK (the Kurdistan Workers Party), which morphed into the YPG (the People’s Protection Units) and SDF (the Syrian Democratic Forces). Also included in this mix of raw freedom fighters, hell-bent on a sovereign Kurdish state along Turkey’s border (following the example of Iraqi Kurdistan), is the TAK (the Kurdistan Freedom Hawks) who claimed responsibility for the 2016 bombing of Ankara which killed 30 people and injured 60. The TAK is a breakaway group from the PKK, the main difference between them being that the PKK say they only target military facilities and personnel, never civilians.
To acknowledge an even greater level of complexity in this theatre of war, the Syrian Kurds are not the indigenous people of Northern Syria, the land which they are now claiming for themselves and fighting tenaciously to rule.
The original inhabitants of this large swath of land are the Aramean Christians who still speak Aramaic, the language of Jesus Christ, which originated in Mesopotamia under the Assyrian Empire in 1000 BC and spread right through Anatolia (Asia Minor), modern-day Turkey; the language itself is known as classical Syriac. The city of Qamishli was founded in 1926 by Arameans fleeing Turkey after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire.
In 2016, the World Council of Arameans (WCA) made an urgent appeal to media, politicians, embassies and human rights organisations to draw attention to the human rights violations they were being subjected to at the hands of the Kurds, who are a Sunni-Muslim majority.
The Arameans consider themselves to be Syrian and a united Syria is their ideal, but the Kurds have other ideas.
The appeal from the WCA stated that over the last century, the Kurds have been cleansing northern Iraq and southeast Turkey of the Aramean population:
“On 2 November 2015, 16 Christian organizations issued a statement that condemned the Kurdification of northeast Syria by the PYD (Democratic Union Party). The intended transformation of this part of Syria into Kurdistan included the enforcement of the Kurdish language and of curricula in schools; enforcing special taxes on and recruitment of non-Kurds; occupation of Aramean owned buildings, etc. In June 2014 and October 2015, Human Rights Watch reported a number of YPG crimes, including but not limited to forced displacement, demolition of homes and the seizure and destruction of property."
The forced closing of all the Aramean schools in the Qamishli provinces by the self-imposed, now-ruling Kurds emboldened by their alliance with the US, was the result of Arameans resisting changes to their school curriculum. But not before Mr. Isa Rashid, a 60 year old teacher and the director of the Nsibin Institute responsible for the Aramean curriculum, was attacked and violently beaten with baseball bats until his head was smashed open and he was left for dead. Who committed this despicable act? The Arameans say it was members of the YPG/PYG.
There exists another problem with the Syrian Kurds and it directly affects the US.
In an interview with a retired CIA Station Chief and the President of Americans for Intelligence Reform, Brad Johnson, he explains his intel that the Kurds have been training Antifa members, who travel from the West to northern Syria to help fight ISIS, then return to the US to cause havoc wherever they can. We know that Antifa in Western countries (in NZ they call themselves Peace Action) are the radical-Left, responsible for violent protests and cancel-culture. In the US, these are the nihilistic protest squads spitting on, and throwing urine at, policemen deployed outside massive Trump rallies, as we just saw in Minneapolis a few days ago. Receiving training in thuggery from Marxists in the Middle East would be a natural fit for Antifa. Whether or not the Kurds know what Antifa do back in the US is anyone’s guess and another matter entirely, but I imagine that they wouldn’t care too much considering the enormity of their own immediate struggles.
President Trump just averted America from another major war in the Middle East. Obama originally took the US into Syria in a covert effort to oust Assad by supporting militant groups opposed to his rule, but ended up putting weapons in the hands of the most diabolical terrorist groups on this planet. The US then began to aid the Kurds in eradicating ISIS. That mission is done - the surviving fighters should’ve been executed, not given art classes and air-con in a misguided act of forgiveness. This is war.
President Erdogan of Turkey is hosting three million odd Syrians and Iraqis in refugee camps inside Turkey, often threatening to unleash them all into Europe. These camps are recruitment pools for ISIS and other terrorist groups. Erdogan wants to create a “safe-zone” in Northern Syria to repatriate these refugees back into their own country - and who can blame him?
President Trump has said unequivocally that if Turkey starts ethnically cleansing the Kurds in Syria - there also happens to be 15 million of them residing inside Turkey - he will smash Turkey’s economy with brutal sanctions, as he is currently doing to Iran. It won’t surprise me in the least if it comes to this. Erdogan is not a man to be trusted, but this is a Middle Eastern problem that needs to be solved by the countries in the region.
The Syrian civil war has always posed an incomprehensibly complex threat to world peace, but since Assad remains its president, it is to him, not the US, that the Kurds must appeal for protection and any chance they may have at future autonomy (though I imagine that dream is over). They also need to lay-off the heavy-handedness with the peaceable Arameans.
I note today that Assad has sent forces into the northern region to help the Kurds fight against the Turkish forces. This is as it should be, for it is his country that the Turks have just invaded. It is not America’s job to fight for a free Kurdistan against the forces of Assad, Erdogan, Putin and Rouhani. That would be an eternal quagmire too dire to even contemplate.
If you enjoyed this article, please buy my book "Western Values Defended: A Primer"
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