“Never get into a well with an American rope” goes the saying spreading across the Middle East, as the US abandons its Kurdish allies in Syria to a Turkish invasion force. People in the region are traditionally cynical about the loyalty of great powers to their local friends, but even they are shocked by the speed and ruthlessness with which Donald Trump greenlit the Turkish attack.
According to the UN and human rights groups, tens of thousands of Kurdish refugees are in flight from their border towns and are being targeted by Turkish airstrikes and artillery fire. Most leaders contemplating ethnic cleansing keep quiet about it, but Turkey’s President Erdogan is openly declaring that he will settle two million Syrian Arab refugees from other parts of Syria on Kurdish lands (he says he’s discovered that the land is not really Kurdish).
Every news dispatch from the new war zone is full of ironies. Trump says that Turkey will be responsible for securing the thousands of Isis prisoners held by the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), But Brett McGurk, as the former presidential adviser to the anti-Isis coalition – and the source for the saying about the unreliability of US rope – notes that in the past it was Turkey which had rejected “any serious cooperation on Isis even as 40k foreign fighters flowed through its territory into Syria”.