Kurds Abandoned by US, Is Israel Next?
Barry Nussbaum: Hello, and welcome to ATP Report. I'm Barry Nussbaum. Our special guest today is Clare Lopez, a longtime Middle East expert, Vice President at the Center for Security Policy, and our encyclopedia about what's going on with the Kurds, Syria, Turkey, and the United States response in the middle of all of this. Clare, thanks for coming back.
Clare Lopez: Thank you very for having me on again.
Barry Nussbaum: Of course. So when we finished our last segment discussing what's happening in Syria between the Kurds, the Syrians, and the Turkish forces invading from the north, we were discussing how the world is starting to perceive what happened. We touched a little bit on Israel, so let's start there. Israel believes that the American failure to honor their agreements and commitments to the Kurds may be indicative of a lack of loyalty in foreign policy when it comes to Middle East allies. Should Israel be nervous?
Clare Lopez: You know, this gets to the heart of I think this whole foreign policy issue. You know, the world may not know that President Trump campaigned back in 2016 on a promise to get America out of endless wars. He wanted to bring American troops home from the Middle East, certainly other places, too, like Afghanistan. But the world may not know that. The world looks at what the president just did in more immediate terms, I think, and that is they are absolutely like Israel, and probably others questioning is America a reliable ally? Is President Trump a reliable ally? And can they trust him to stand fast when the going gets tough in the future?
Barry Nussbaum: Well, on that subject, and I think you're right, I think Israel ought to be a bit concerned not only because of their insecurity about will Israel have America standing behind them in case of a major conflict, but also a respect by the Israeli military for what the Kurdish military has done against ISIS. And the story from the IDF is so profound. There are many instances of IDF reservists, and I know this is going to sound crazy, volunteering to go into Syria, to fight alongside the Kurds, to defend the Kurdish positions against their Muslim brethren who are invading and slaughtering them. And I mean, there are a lot of these troops who were posting online asking permission to go and defend the Kurdish territory against the invasion.
Clare Lopez: I'm not surprised. And that sentiment echoes what we hear and see on social media, for example, from American special operations forces who were the ones which were posted over there and really over a period of decades. I mean, we're going back to the early 1990s when, you know, American troops were first sent over there, special operations forces, to stand by the Kurds of northern Iraq against Saddam Hussein at the time. So our military, too, has a long history of fighting with and by the side of the Kurds, and they've come to respect them a lot. Let's remember what the Kurds call themselves, which is Peshmerga, and Peshmerga means those who face death. That is their reputation. They're tough fighters. Again, as I said before, in the fight against the Islamic State, it was really the Kurds that did the bulk of the fighting. And our side provided much else that was vital and necessary, intelligence and logistics, and so forth. But they did the hard fighting, and the respect that our guys have for them is very much like what you're telling me for the Israelis. And also the sense of I mean, just dismay comes across in social media posts from our special forces who have now been pulled back and forced to leave the side of those with whom they fought and slept and ate, bled, and died over the years. And now they have to salute, say, "Yes, sir, Mr. President," and leave the Kurds to their fate. They feel terrible about it.
Barry Nussbaum: It's fairly obvious. You know, America promised to defend their allies the Kurds, and it's been acknowledged inside the White House and coming out of the Pentagon that the Kurdish military regiments, whether they are small or large, well-organized or more on the militia level, were indeed the Peshmerga were instrumental in helping to defeat ISIS. They now feel betrayed. For all intents and purposes, with us out of the way, Turkey has permission to go and kill them, although it's not overt. How is the rest of the world perceiving our abandonment of our allies?
Clare Lopez: Well, you know, even in Europe, there has been a strong response of disapproval for the president's decision. And, you know, we here in America, we can understand, yes, this goes back to 2016 and the presidential campaign trail promises. We all get that. And Americans, of course, want their loved ones back home from battlefields, of course. But the rest of the world and this is what really does matter. It's about perceptions. It's about perceptions of the United States as a partner, a reliable ally. And those perceptions have taken a hit. I mean, we can explain all we want, but this is what he meant. This is what he promised till the cows come home, but the perception in the world is, did you stand and fight when the jihadist regime of the Muslim Brotherhood is supporting the regime of President Erdogan, threatened? And, you know, when that threat was made, apparently over the telephone, this phone call I mean, that would have been the time to say, you know, Mr. Erdogan, our troops are there. They're staying there. They're not going anywhere. You know, you come as far as you like, but we're not moving. And by the way, we're sending some more troops to augment them. So do what you like. But we're not moving Mr. NATO ally no more.
Barry Nussbaum: No, kidding, and maybe that's why. There is general unanimity on this like we talked about previously. Republicans and Democrats in the House and the Senate literally are unified as if it's a non-issue. It's so rare that Dems and GOP cross the aisle, link hands, and say we are mad together as the legislative branch of the United States and want the president to change his mind. And so far, he hasn't.
Clare Lopez: The House of Representatives in the US Congress passed a resolution today, just as you say, cross-aisle. Democrats and Republicans together joined in that resolution expressing disapproval of the president's decision.
Barry Nussbaum: Exactly. Thanks, Clare. And thank you for joining us today on ATP Report. I would encourage all of you to text the word TRUTH to 88202. You'll be automatically signed up to get all of our ATP Reports like the one today. All of our articles from all of our contributors and it's always free. Again for ATP Report, I'm Barry Nussbaum.