Barely 72 hours after Donald Trump gave him the green light to invade, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan sent his troops across the Syrian border to do to the Kurds what the Turks did for the Armenians a century ago. Coming as it did on Yom Kippur, the attack sent ripples of fear across Israel about the reliability of the mercurial and unpredictable American president.
Trump’s acceding to Erdogan’s urging to withdraw American troops across his border with Syria, effectively removed any obstacle to the Turkish strongman’s longtime goal of ethnic cleansing of the Syrian Kurds.
Even Trump’s faithful retainer, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, was so shaken by doubts spreading across his country about whether this administration could be counted on in time of crisis that he issued a statement declaring Israeli self-sufficiency. “Israel will defend itself, by itself, against any threat,” he said at a Yom Kippur War memorial ceremony on the day the Turkish slaughter of the Kurds began.
One excuse Trump gave for abandoning the Kurds was that they weren’t there at Normandy to help us on D-Day. I don’t recall any Israeli flags among the invasion force, either. Does that mean he’s ready to abandon Israel as well whenever it suits him?
The message is clear for Israel and other allies, notably the Afghanis, in the impulsive president’s latest betrayal of an ally: America’s friendship – and his word – mean nothing.
On that call, Trump also invited Erdogan to the White House on November 13; maybe they’ll celebrate their great victory in Syria. ISIS will also be celebrating, as Trump and Erdogan freed over 10,000 terrorists being held by the Kurds, who had been betrayed.
Just months ago Trump was proclaiming the United States would never abandon our faithful Kurdish allies who had so bravely fought and died alongside Americans against ISIS. They actually did the overwhelming share of the fighting and dying. But they are apparently no longer useful to Trump, who is determined to lead a hasty American retreat from international leadership.
Only last month Trump was so anxious to get out of Afghanistan that he invited the Taliban to Camp David on the anniversary of 9/11 to cut a deal. The only thing preventing that was one of the group’s suicide bombers killed an American a couple days earlier.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) called Trump’s decision to leave Syria a potential “nightmare for Israel.”
But it was good news for Israel’s enemies, particularly Iran, which is spreading its influence in Syria and encroaching on Israel’s borders.
Erdogan’s goal is to accelerate US withdrawal from the region – something to discuss in their meeting next month — in his quest for recognition as the leader of the anti-Israel Islamic Middle East. He is a strong supporter of Muslim Brotherhood and sides with Hamas, also an Iranian ally, in its rivalry with the more secular Fatah.
Despite his avowed friendship with Netanyahu and his Jewish family ties, Trump is seeking rapprochement with Iran, Israel’s greatest existential threat a country that makes no secret of its desire to destroy the Jewish state. In his quest to destroy Barack Obama’s legacy and at Netanyahu’s urging he tore up the Iran nuclear agreement, which has accelerated Tehran’s nuclear program, and has vowed to make a better deal. As when he tore up NAFTA, Trump doesn’t care as much about the substance as long as he gets enough cosmetic changes to boast about his stellar achievement at his campaign rallies.
He justified his sudden decision to withdraw from Syria as keeping the 2016 campaign pledge he “got elected on,” to extricate the United States from foreign conflicts.
The ayatollahs are not as anxious as North Korea’s Kim Jong Un to break out of isolation, but they do want relief from Trump’s crippling sanctions. They also want more than a photo op, so their president refused to meet Trump at the UN last month unless he gave them something substantive.
So the insults and barbs continue, but don’t be too distracted by them. Remember Trump had similar nasty exchanges with “little rocket man,” Kim, before they kissed and made up in Singapore last year and a fawning Trump declared he was in “love.”
Many of Trump’s Republican loyalists on Capitol Hill have strongly criticized his decision to abandon the Kurds, but don’t expect them to do any more than wring their hands and tweet their outrage.
They’re too busy trying to ignore his pressing foreign leaders to advance his domestic personal political agenda, defending cutting military aid to Ukraine and demanding “a favor” of investigating former Vice President Joe Biden. He calls the tactic a part of a noble pursuit of fighting corruption, ignoring that this most corrupt of presidents hasn’t ordered similar anti-corruption investigations or anyone else anywhere else on the globe.
One of Trump’s endless boasts is how he single handedly defeated ISIS and destroyed the Caliphate. The Caliphate may no longer hold territory but it still has thousands of loyal fighters and is breeding many more in the prisoner and refugee camps in Syria who could be released, thanks to the irresponsible actions of a self-proclaimed “very stable genius” who didn’t need the advice of his top military, intelligence and diplomatic advisors.
Responding to critics of his abandonment of the Kurds, he tweeted “if Turkey does anything that I, in my great and unmatched wisdom, consider to be off limits, I will totally destroy and obliterate the Economy of Turkey (I’ve done before!).”
Don’t believe it. Brett McGurk, Trump’s former top envoy in the war against the Islamic State, tweeted “He blusters and then leaves our allies exposed.”
Donald Trump is not a Commander-in-Chief. He makes impulsive decisions with no knowledge or deliberation. He sends military personnel into harm’s way with no backing. He blusters and then leaves our allies exposed when adversaries call his bluff or he confronts a hard phone call.
— Brett McGurk (@brett_mcgurk) October 7, 2019
By giving Erdogan a green light to slaughter Kurds, Trump will be undoing all the sacrifices by Kurdish and American forces to defeat ISIS, and the net effect will be to release thousands of Kurdish prisoners and their supporters to scatter about the region and across Europe to resume their deadly missions. Topping their target lists will be Jews and Americans.
Thank you, Mr. President.