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The loser of Middle East conjuncture

“America”, Henry Kissinger once said, “has no permanent friends or enemies, only interests.” The decades-old narrative has, today, been, unsurprisingly, substantiated in the context of the US’ unpredictable departure from the deal forged with Kurds in the north-eastern part of Syria. There should be no doubt that US President Donald Trump, after assuming office, has embarrassed the US at several occasions, and trampled upon the US’ credibility as well as its prestige on the global stage.

Now, without mincing words, let’s first go back to the beginning of the US’ involvement in Syria around October 2015. Syria is a country enriched with oil resources, and is strategically positioned in the Middle East. And perhaps, that must have inveigled the US to try and fishing in the already troubled waters of Syria. In essence, the US wanted a significant foothold in Syria with a strong say in its administration. But, the US’ far-sighted ambitions hit an inflexible wall of the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s diehard allegiance to Russia. 

At the moment, an undeniable fact deserves to be mentioned here that the US may not have a direct rivalry with Russia, but any and every small country, having a strong leaning towards Russia, gets automatically updated in Washington’s natural enemy list, be it Venezuela, Serbia or the latest one Syria. In line with that, the US, first, accused Syria of using chemical weapons on its citizens for carrying out a mass revolution to topple Assad Government. But, the US’ clear intentions of throwing out Bashar al-Assad, and replace him with their puppet administration, got another hit, and this time in the form of ISIS. 

With their unslakable thirst of mongering fear, and that too without any expressed intention, a rogue element, Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), went around creating chaos for everyone in the region. But, probably, this chaos brought an opportunity for the US to seize. The US sent its 2000 special forces troops in Syria in 2014-15, following a pact signed with the local ethnic group, the Kurds. 

With a population around 25-35 million, the Kurds are today spread majorly across Turkey, Syria, Iran and Iraq. Living in Syria’s north-eastern part with lack of development and employment opportunities, the Kurds were the most easily convincible local fighters for the US in the region. In 2015, with the well-defended backing of the United States, a Kurdish-Syrian Arab alliance, the Syrian Democratic Force (SDF) with some 50,000 fighters, vehemently, emerged to uproot ISIS from across the region. 

But, indeed, Washington’s alliance with the Kurdish forces was meant to kill two birds with one stone. By providing them with the state-of-the-art weapons and training, the US, first, wanted to eradicate the ISIS, and then aimed to use the same forces to dethrone Bashar al-Assad in Damascus.

Notwithstanding, the Kurdish forces supported by America deserves credit for rooting out the Jihadist militants, Islamic State forces. And, with this, the US, expectedly, accomplished 50 per cent of its planned objective. But another uphill task of these forces was due to be achieved, and that was to topple Assad. Since taking over as president in 2000, Bashar al-Assad has enjoyed a staunch backing from Russia. And, today Russia has gone even further by deploying its soldiers in Syria. 

Here, US President Donald Trump’s another failure and upcoming presidential elections in the US forced him to calculate the consequences, and to get his act together. Trump, who counts himself as the champion of ‘America First’ policy, couldn’t find a single reason to keep his soldiers deploying in Syria any longer. As, ISIS was neutralized, and going further to overturn Assad administration could have costed the US an arm and a leg owing to the Russian involvement. But, against this backdrop, Trump had an undeniable reason to bring back all his 2000 troops back from Syria, and that reason was 2020 US presidential elections.

Today, Donald Trump is, undoubtedly, reeling from a ‘Do or Die’ situation. A Senate-headed cumbersome impeachment inquiry against him is still underway. Trump has been struggling for a lifeguard to avoid drowning in this overflow of complex political situations. In this backdrop, Trump needs something colossal, tangible and marvellous to crow about when he hits the campaign stage for the next year’s presidential elections. 

Bringing back the US soldiers, stationed at the foreign soil especially those in the Middle East, soon and safe is a long-simmering issue among the US taxpayers. And, a populist Trump is known for his opportunism, and that he can go to any extent to appease his voters. However, after his irresponsible and callous move pertaining to Syria, Trump is facing flak from his political opponents, US media and, for that matter, some of his own party members. But, for Trump, even criticism is a sort of publicity. 

Now, left behind by the US’ unpredictable and unethical betrayal, the Kurds, today, are most unfortunate, miserably unarmed, and left with nothing but two of its bloodthirsty enemies—the Turkish Government and the relics of ISIS.

Tellingly, the disservice that has been done by Trump to the US’ image with his controversial and abrupt act may help him win the elections (at least he must be thinking so), but would probably defeat his country in the times to come. Taking into account his such betrayals, any minor or major power in the world will certainly go through a thousand phases of reasoning before striking a pact with the United States.

Now, another player in the game, Turkey was quick to seize the opportunity.  The growing insecurity given the advancement of Kurdish forces led Turkey to carry out a move to nip it in the bud. Turkey sees the Syrian and Iraqi Kurds as a threat to its sovereignty. Here, it is worth mentioning that Kurds in the Middle East have long been struggling to bring the Kurdish community in the region together to establish Kurdistan. Since Turkey is home to about 14.7 million Kurds, and a large population of Kurds lives in the south-eastern part of Turkey, the west Asian giant fears of a separatist movement that may gain momentum in its Kurds majority south-eastern region. Hence, the Turkish attack on Kurdish forces followed hard on the heels of US’ withdrawal from Syria. 

Expectedly and rightly so, various countries are accusing Ankara of carrying out a mass genocide of Kurds on the pretext of creating a buffer-zone in north-eastern Syria, touching boundary with Turkey, to accommodate 3 million refugees living in Southern Turkey for years, who fled Syrian war zones and settled in Turkey. And, due to this obvious reason, the European countries and the Europian Union itself don’t tend to adopt a hard stance towards Turkey’s inhumane acts. Perhaps, the European countries are fearful of the migrant crisis that may become inevitable if Turkey flushes out the Syrian refugees through its European border.

However, today Kurds are feared of being on the verge of ethnic cleansing with the hands of Turkish forces, owing to the US’ brazen betrayal. Being indiscriminately thrashed by Turkish forces, they are wriggling, and hence begging the USA to fulfil their promise.

At the same time, another question arises out of the whole picture is that why didn’t the Turkish bombardment inside the north-eastern part of Syria enrage Bashar al-Assad? The answer may come as something of a surprise to many that no it won’t irk Assad, rather it will serve his own purpose. As the formation of Kurdish forces was meant to eventually take on the Assad regime, so the Kurds could have emerged as a cumbersome pain in the neck for Damascus. Indeed, for the Syrian president, Turkey was actually treating the malaise that may have, soon, begun to bite the Assad regime. Hence, Bashar al-Assad has turned out to be the biggest winner in this complex conjuncture.

Now, who is the biggest loser? That is the country which forged this whole game, and that’s USA. President Donald Trump may have earned some political mileage with his bizarre move, but his country will have to pay the heaviest prizes in the decades to come. Trust deficit in its diplomacy or the credibility loss on the global platform would, probably, be the primary one of those prizes.

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