Turkey doesn’t need saving, the Kurds do

As you’re reading this, the town of Kobane is under heavy siege by IS, and about to fall. NATO is preparing a battle plan to defend Turkey in case it is attacked on its Syrian front. Meanwhile, pitifully little attention is paid to the heroic Kurdish defenders, holding on to the last stronghold that keeps IS from consolidating its grip over the Syrian-Turkish Border while NATO airstrikes are barely making a dent.

The Turkish angle: While Kurdish forces and tens of thousands of civilians are under immediate threat of total annihilation, NATO-member Turkey is secure and perched in their military posts on the border just watching the drama unfold, instead of acting and taking responsibility. Not only would it be easier for Turkey to indirectly support the Kurdish forces with ammunition and weapons and help them repel the attacking IS forces. It would also keep them from having to fight them off directly at a later point in time. But one might argue that as a long-time NATO member, and being the most capable to assist, Erdogan has a duty to assist the Kurds if not get boots on the ground to help them repel the IS’s advance. All the while, Erdogan hides behind thinly veiled excuses, like insisting on a no-fly zone and a buffer zone as well as a focus on getting rid of President Assad, yet has the nerve to flaunt to the world the fact that Kobane is falling. Forget the promise his government made not to let Kobane fall. But then again, Turkish hate for the Kurds has always been greater than their fear for IS, so why should they even bother? After all, Turks have massacred the Kurds before. The only difference is that this time, they get to watch the show from the sidelines.

U.S.Soldierspreparing to Relieve Kurdish Forces in Iraq.
US Soldiers relieving Kurdish Forces in Iraq

The American angle: As one of the initiators of the anti-IS campaign, the Americans should be more willing to assist the Kurds, who are virtually the only entity in the region who have been able to stop IS from steamrolling across their territory. Leaving aside the conflict, Kurds are some of the most pro-American people in the world. They are eternally grateful to the U.S for taking care of Saddam Hussein, and to them, the Iraq War was a liberation, not an invasion. They would make for good and reliable allies to the Americans in this increasingly volatile and radical Middle East. As the Peshmerga’s famous guerilla leader Mullah Mustafa Barzani once told Jim Hoagland of the Washington Post, “We can become your fifty-first state and provide you with oil.” And that was back in 1973! President Obama wasn’t this reluctant when arming Syrian rebels, 80% of whom are self-professed Islamists, nor when sponsoring Hamas and various other radical Muslim organizations, yet holds back on an openly pro-American and democratic Kurdistan and Kurdish people as a whole. It’s time for his government to make a real push for democracy and stand up for what is right… not just in his eyes.

The Israeli angle: Much like Israel, the Kurds are virulently hated by virtually everyone in the Middle East and have been the victims of genocide and murder, committed by several countries and groups in the region. Relations between Jews and Kurds go way back. Kurdish Aghas or chieftains offered their Jewish subjects patronage and protection. Based on these, the Jews of Kurdistan lived freely alongside Muslims and Christians for generations in relative security.

Soldier fighting with a gas mask in Syria.
Soldier fighting with a gas mask in Syria.

Those that later made Aliya, would reminisce about the positive experiences they and their fathers and forefathers had in the tribal Kurdish society. In a policy address in 2014, Prime Minister Netanyahu expressed his support for the establishment of an independent Kurdish state: “The Kurds are a fighting people that have proven political commitment and political moderation, and they’re also worthy of their own political independence.” While Israel doesn’t want to provoke IS, they will turn on Israel either way at some point. It is a fait accompli. The only thing holding IS back for now is their lack of consolidation and power in the region. If Israel will be at war with the Islamic state at some point anyways, it might as well start it on its own terms; helping the Kurds would be a good cause to start one.

About the Author
Originally from Belgium, Sam Schick is currently a student at the IDC Herzliya's school of Government, Diplomacy and Strategy.
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