It only took one phone call for the US to stab the Kurds in the back yet again. In a call with the Turkish president Erdogan yesterday, Trump promised the US will stop arming the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia – which just happens to be the most significant remaining US proxy in Syria by far, and has borne the brunt of the US war against ISIS in Syria.
The Turkish foreign minister held a press conference after the call where he said Trump made the promise after the Turkish side shared its grievances with Trump. According to the Turks Trump also agreed that “in principle this nonsense should have ended much earlier”.
What is more, the change of policy came as a total surprise to Trump’s generals. The Wall Street Journal:
Mr. Trump delivered the news in a call with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, who has long urged the U.S. to cut off its support for Kurdish militants he views as terrorists intent on destroying his own country.
The Turkish announcement came as a surprise in Washington, where military and political officials in Mr. Trump’s administration appeared to be caught off-guard. U.S. military officials said they had received no new guidance about supplying weapons to the Kurdish forces.
It appears the White House did not discuss the change beforehand with the military at all, and may have made the decision on the spot, in the actual conversation with Erdogan.
US no longer directly supplying the YPG actually does not mean much in real terms. The US has been openly and directly arming the YPG only since early 2017. In all likelihood Trump’s assurances just mean the Pentagon will now go back to arming the YPG indirectly, by delivering arms to YPG’s Arab satellites in the SDF, who then pass a part of the equipment on to the much more powerful Kurdish militia.
— Tim Hogan (@TimInHonolulu) May 10, 2017
However, for Trump to so easily discard the Kurds, America’s best and most loyal ally in Syria, in a phone talk with their mortal enemies is laden with symbolic importance. It once again shows how fickle American policies can be. Even the most loyal proxies can be sold out to their enemies overnight – once their usefulness has expired.
And it truly was done very easily and casually. Both, America’s YPG allies and the US military, found out about the new policy the same way the rest of us did – from the Turks.
U.S armaments & military vehicles being delivered to SDF via trucks toward Raqqa. pic.twitter.com/x49JUOZK8I
— Afarin Mamosta (@AfarinMamosta) July 19, 2017
Of course, the US should probably not be propping up the YPG in the first place. But here the White House is downgrading that tie for the worst possible reason.
A good reason to end the patronage of the YPG would be because the Kurdish militia already controls areas much greater than the Kurdish ethnic space in Syria. Another good one would be because it is not Empire’s place to occupy and de facto partition Syria.
Instead, the US opts to betray the foot soldiers of its war in eastern Syria since 2014 to accommodate Erdogan who has been a poor and shifty ally to the US and is an oppressor of Kurds in Turkey.