Washington: When it Comes to the Kurds, No Honor

by Stephen Bryen

October 20, 2017

Today it is reported that the Iraqi army, which is infested with Iranian backed Shia militias who have taken the lead, have been attacking the Kurds using U.S. equipment, including the potent Abrams Tank, which itself is a formidable weapon with a massive 120mm gun that can destroy structures many miles away.

The Kurds have no chance against such weapons.  They are lightly armed and their forces have been optimized to go against ISIS and other terrorists.  Kurds have been fighting and dying in a partnership with the United States –at least until the unfolding debacle in Kirkuk.

The United States has sold out the Kurds in an extreme policy blunder that not only puts the Kurds and others, including the Yazidis at great risk but also smears America’s honor in a way that will not soon be forgotten.

It is incredible that the Trump administration would knowingly sell out an ally.

It is a severe lesson for other countries who will now seek alliances and help from America’s enemies because the United States has shown itself to be unreliable and cynical in the extreme.

Who will learn this lesson?  To begin with countries like Saudi Arabia and Egypt already get it and have moved to shore up their relations with Russia to balance the Americans.  Both of them are now buying Russian weapons, and at the end of the day the balance of influence in the Middle East will shift to Russia’s favor.  Indeed the administration has played right into Putin’s hands.

No one in future will put up the lives of their children in defense of America’s interests.  Between June 2014 until late August of this year 1,780 Kurds were killed fighting ISIS and another 10,155 were wounded.  There are still 62 missing. These included men and women soldiers who sacrificed their lives at our urging.  It is important to realize that they did not need to do this: they saved Iraq from certain disintegration and helped stop the ISIS killing and its genocide against the Yazidi people.

Then the Kurds held a peaceful referendum on whether they should seek true independence from Iraq: at most a bargaining ploy but also a reflection that many Kurds in Iraq think they have earned the right to an independent state.

It is quite true that the Kurds themselves are divided on the matter, mostly because two main factions –one led by Masoud Barzani (who supported the referendum) and the other headed by Jalal Talabani, who died on October 3rd. Talabani previously served as Iraq’s first post-Saddam President.  The U.S. did not support Barzani or the referendum mostly because it is still trying to shore up the Iraqi regime and trying to move it away from the Iranians.  

But the result of U.S. policy is exactly the reverse of its intention.  The U.S. has ended up as an arms supplier to Iranian backed Sh’ia militias and aided and abetted Iran’s expansion of power in Iraq.  Fairly soon these Iranian-backed militias will run Iraq and the Sunni, Kurds, Yazidis and other minorities will be suppressed.

A strong and independent Kurdistan could have been a vital ally for the United States had the White House paid even a reasonable amount of respect to their allies.  As it is it will be a lucky thing if the Kurds escape attacks that will take the lives of thousands, in another round of brutality directed by Iran.