Christina Lin

Obama’s Kowtow policy towards Turkey and Arab Gulf states

It appears Obama administration is embarked on a kowtow strategy towards Turkey and Arab Gulf states.

President Obama greets Saudi King, April 2009
President Obama greets Saudi King, April 2009

Last week, Vice President Biden was forced to apologize to Turkey, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and UAE for his remarks at Harvard University regarding these allies’ well-documented support for Islamic extremist groups like al Qaeda and ISIS.

Now, the US-led anti-ISIS coalition and NATO find themselves ineffective in face of ISIS slowly massacring the Kobani Kurds, as they continue to wear the Turkey strait jacket that constrains their freedom of action. The anti-ISIS group appears willing to sacrifice the Kurds in order to keep Turkey in the coalition.

As a corollary, while the world is watching the battle of Kobani, it appears the West is no longer able to stand for its values of human rights and freedom.

Already reports are coming in of ISIS savagery in Kobani, the streets littered with headless corpses with their eyes and tongues cut out, similar to brutalities of the ancient Assyrian empire that previously existed in the swaths of current ISIS-controlled territory.

As ISIS continues its anti-human abominations against Kurdish fighters in Kobani many of whom are women, decapitating them and glorifying their deeds on twitter, these courageous women warriors are falling one by one while nearby Turkish men in their tanks watch ISIS atrocities as a spectator sport.

When men are able to watch evil men slaughter innocent women and civilians and do nothing, when it is the women who have to take the fight to the bad guys while men sit back and watch, these are men with a seared conscience.

And while their leader Erdogan made such a fuss over Israel committing “genocide” in exercising her right to self-defense against Hamas attacks, he is deafening silent regarding the actual genocide that is taking place less than a mile from Turkey’s border.

So long as U.S. coalition is unequally yoked with so called ‘allies’ that do not share similar values, it loses freedom of action and legitimacy. And without credibility, the U.S.-led coalition will fall apart.

Without Credibility, US-led coalition will fall apart

Although Secretary Kerry insists Kobani is not key in the anti-ISIS fight, it is highly symbolic of U.S. credibility and commitment towards its allies.

The Kurds have been the most reliable pro-US. and pro-Western ally in the region, and have helped protect both Christians and Muslims as the scourge of ISIS continues to ravage Iraq and Syria.

After all that this loyal ally has done, the West now sits idle and watches the Kurds battle and be slaughtered by ISIS jihadists.

As former US ambassador to Turkey Eric Edelman and Henri Barkey from Lehigh University argued in a 7 October American Interest article, taking action to rescue the Kurdish population is “a concrete and immediate way to demonstrate America’s mettle to IS.”

“American timidity in striking IS in Kobani and Turkish obstructionism are shortsighted. The fall of Kobani will have a devastating impact on Kurds in the broader region.”

Edelman and Barkey further warned “…the US cannot pick and choose where it intervenes when actual massacres of innocent populations are concerned. And if it tarries much longer, it may well find the credibility of its anti-IS strategy in both Syria and Iraq fatally compromised.”

Already, the Kurds, our boots on the ground, are feeling abandoned and betrayed.

Kani Xulam, director of American Kurdish Information Network in Washington, D.C. lamented while Obama promised to ‘degrade and destroy’ ISIS, instead “he has allowed the extremist group to ‘degrade and destroy’ Kurdish self-rule in Kobane.”

He assessed Kurds will be sacrificed upon the altar of political expediency while the Obama administration kowtows to Turkey. Similarly, during the recent Hamas-Israeli conflict, US was also seen as abandoning its ally Israel as it kowtowed to Qatar and Turkey in the ceasefire process.

Edelman and Barkey rightly warned this would have a devastating impact on Kurds in the broader region. Indeed, it will likely reverberate to US Asian allies that currently support the coalition, because in a globalized world, allies in Asia closely watch US behavior elsewhere.

For example, during the Crimea crisis, there was a surge of press reports in Taiwan and Japan fearing US inaction should China invade Taiwan or Senkakau Islands. Japanese officials watched US timidity on Crimea and sternly warned if Washington abandons Tokyo in times of need, Japan will abrogate the defense treaty, build nuclear weapons, and kick US out of Japanese bases so it will no longer be a Pacific power.

Similarly, Taiwan under the current KMT regime is edging closer to China, as even a former deputy defense minister of the opposition DPP party expressed doubt US would help Taiwan if it were attacked.

Further distrust of US loyalty and security guarantee is currently driving a South Korean debate over building their own nuclear weapons, and a Singapore military official said as US does not demonstrate effective leadership, Singapore and other Southeast Asian states will bandwagon with a rising China.

Jackson Diehl in a 12 October Washington Post article also discussed how Eastern Europeans NATO members such as Hungary, Slovakia, Czeh Republic are kissing Putin’s ring due to doubts on “whether a NATO led by Obama would really come to their defense.”

Allies will bandwagon with China 

In stark contrast to perceived US fickleness and fecklessness, China and Russia have actually been consistent and loyal in supporting their allies—be it North Korea, Syria or Iran—as unpalatable as they are to the Western world. China and Russia’s allies trust them.

While US allies increasingly do not trust Washington.

As such, the Kurds may have compelling reason to bandwagon with China. In September China opened a new consulate general in Erbil, and is turning to Kurdish oil supply to hedge against increasing ISIS threat to their supply in southern Iraq.

Similar to its strategy in South Sudan when it became independent, China had a beach hold in the oil rich region and recently approved deploying a battalion of 700 combat troops to safeguard stability and protect its energy interests.

China likely sees a similar trajectory with Iraqi Kurdistan. In fact China has been pouring investments in Erbil’s energy sector and infrastructure for several years, and it even has a budding China town.

If the West completely abandons Kobani, the Kurds may find bandwagoning with China from now is a safer bet than its Western allies.

About the Author
Dr. Christina Lin is a US-based foreign policy analyst specializing in China-Mediterranean relations. She has extensive US government experience working on national security issues and was a CBRN (chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear) research consultant for Jane's Information Group.
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