“You have sold us”: Kurdish leader in Syria accuses US of abandoning allies

Fleeing Operation Peace Spring.
Fleeing Operation Peace Spring.
Image: Reuters
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Turkish troops are shelling northeast Syria, held by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces. The US—a Kurdish ally, as well as a Turkish one—is doing nothing to stop it.

“You are leaving us to be slaughtered,” said Kurdish general Mazloum Kobani in a meeting with American officials, CNN reports.

Kobani met with William Roebuck, deputy special envoy to the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS, on Oct. 10. According to an internal US government readout of the meeting obtained by CNN, the Kurdish leader warned that he would have to make a deal with Russia for help if the US does not step in. “You are not willing to protect the people, but you do not want another force to come and protect us. You have sold us. This is immoral,” he said.

His army has been a US ally in the fight against ISIS for five years. But there is no indication that the Trump administration will respond to the Kurdish leader’s cry for help, despite criticism from Americans and US allies, who say Turkey’s move undermines the global fight against ISIS and American national security interests as a result. In fact, the US is withdrawing troops from the region—some of whom were shelled by Turkish forces this week, apparently by mistake.

Kobani said that without US assistance he’ll be forced to work with Syrian president Bashar al-Assad’s Russian-backed regime in Damascus to enforce a no-fly zone halting Turkish airstrikes. “I need to know if you are capable of protecting my people, of stopping these bombs falling on us or not. I need to know, because if you’re not, I need to make a deal with Russia and the regime now and invite their planes to protect this region,” the Kurdish general said.

The Turkish mission is called Operation Peace Spring, though its execution indicates otherwise. There was death and destruction this week as Kurdish towns were pounded by Turkish airstrikes and artillery. “The region’s latest war is a deeply uneven match—and has the potential to be a slaughter of the Kurds,” the New Yorker writes.

The Kurds are worried that Turkey is intent on ethnic cleansing. They aren’t alone in this concern.

An editorial in Ha’aretz by Akil Merceau, former director of the Representation of the Regional Government of Iraqi Kurdistan in Paris, called Trump’s refusal to stand up for the Kurds against Turkey “both immoral and irresponsible.” Merceau said Trump  is “complicit” in ethnic cleansing, concluding, “This is an America lacking strategy on key global issues, dependent on the transactional whims of a real estate magnate who only weakens allies and strengthens adversaries.”

Meanwhile, Kobani warns, his forces can no longer focus on the ISIS prisoners under the SDF’s watch. “This is a very big problem,” Kobani recently told NBC News. “Nobody has helped in this regard.” There are 12,000 suspected ISIS terrorists being held in detention centers in the region under the Kurdish military leader’s control. But given the Turkish operation, watching over the prisoners isn’t the top priority.