(GPA) – With Turkey’s incursion (or invasion) of Syria this week; Kurdish fighters have been ordered to stand down. Some in the West are disappointed by this turn of events but historically it’s just another instance of the Kurds being used as a political prop by U.S. when it’s to their advantage.
Since the escalation of the war in Syria, The United States has been supplying Kurds in Syria with weapons and support in order to combat the Islamic State. The Kurdish YPG have proven themselves to be a competent force in fighting extremism and managed to gain significant amounts of territory.
For a lot of younger people in The West just waking up to geopolitical events this may be the first time they’ve learned of the Kurdish population in the border region of Turkey, Iraq and Syria. If you’re just hearing of the Kurdish struggle for autonomy then you’ve missed the U.S. turning a blind eye to their slaughter for decades and constantly using their plight whenever it’s convenient.
The largest conflict exploited by the West involving the Kurds was the ongoing fight between the population in Iraq and the government of Saddam Hussein.
After the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990 The United States began seeking out any opposition they could find within Iraq and the best they could find were the Kurds in the north. Yet shortly after the Iraqi invasion had been stopped, the Shia population rose up an the Kurds followed their lead. The U.S. didn’t back this rebellion despite 15 of the 18 provinces of Iraq falling under control of rebel groups.
Saddam later brutally crushed this rebellion and used brutal tactics on the rebellious populations. This included the use of chemical weapons on the Kurds, resulting in hundreds of thousand fleeing into the mountains of Turkey and Iran. The U.S. decided this was enough for them to show concern for the Kurdish population again and established a no fly zone over the territory in the north of Iraq.
The no fly zone wasn’t some altruistic move by the U.S. The no fly zone was seen as an opportunity to establish a safe zone for an Iraqi opposition that predictably did not primarily include the Kurds. The Kurdish region of Iraq was instead used to found the CIA supported Iraqi National Congress (INC) which was headed by the now infamous Ahmed Chalabi; the man who later helped facilitate the 2003 invasion of Iraq by cosigning the lies about WMDs while in exile.
In response to the snubbing by Washington, the Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP) worked out a deal for autonomy with Saddam’s government and began a period of infighting with the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK). The PUK and INC allied themselves with the U.S. as of 1996 but once again, requests for direct support for anti-Saddam forces were ignored. The fighting continued until the invasion of Iraq in 2003, but even until the last days the U.S. refused to provide safety for meetings of any type of Kurdish assembly.
If this strategy seems familiar it’s probably because it looks a lot like the way the Kurds are being used inside Syria right now. Kurdish territory became a safe zone for the deployment of U.S. special forces and the YPG forces have aided U.S. air power in the fight against the Islamic State.
Now that NATO member state Turkey has stepped into the fray through the territory secured by Kurdish forces it only makes sense in a historic context that the U.S. has abandoned the Kurdish project once again. The Kurds cut a clear path for Turkey (their longtime enemy) into Syria and now that the Turks are ready to aid in the fight it looks as if there is no longer a need for the Kurdish forces. This isn’t any sort of policy confusion on the United States’ part, this has been the how the Kurds have been used in the region for decades and this seems to be just another chapter of Kurdish forces being used by the West only while it’s to their advantage.
This report was prepared by Jim Carey for Geopolitics Alert.