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Op-Ed: Trump is enabling ethnic cleansing in Middle East

Op-Ed: Trump is enabling ethnic cleansing in Middle East

In a recent article in the prestigious Foreign Policy Magazine, Kurdish General Mazloum Abdi called upon US President Donald Trump to stop Turkey’s ethnic cleansing of the Kurdish people in Northern Syria: “Mr. President, the Turks are doing ethnic cleansing inside this area as they did in Afrin.  America should not allow forced changes in demography and ethnic cleansing in the 21st century.”   His emotional appeal comes as four US Congressional Democrats called upon Trump to explain what he knows about Turkey’s use of white phosphorous gas on Kurdish civilians in Northern Syria.

“Turkey’s war caused the displacement of thousands of civilians,” Mendi Safadi, who heads the Safadi Center for International Diplomacy, Research, Public Relations and Human Rights, proclaimed.  “Some of the violations against civilians were documented in villages and towns, where the SDF withdrew from.” Firas Kassass, head of the Party of Modernity and Democracy in Syria, concurred: “They have committed war crimes and crimes against humanity.”  Aside from ethnically cleansing Kurds, Yezidis and Christians from Northern Syria, Turkey seeks to have the indigenous inhabitants of Northern Syrian replaced by Arab Syrian refugees that Mr. Erdogan no longer wishes to host, thus forever changing the ethnic composition of Syrian Kurdistan. 

As Turkish journalist Rafael Sadi noted, “Turkey during the AKP period has become more religious and radical.  Erdogan is the unofficial leader of the Muslim Brotherhood.  But still, the entire Turkish nation is not thinking this way.”  Sadi believes that Turkey sought to take over Northern Syria in order to ensure the smooth flow of oil from Northern Iraq into Turkey.  He believes that if the Kurds succeeded to establish sovereignty in Northern Syria, the Iraqi Kurds could then transport their oil to Syrian Kurdistan and then export it via the Mediterranean Sea and thus would no longer need Turkey. 

In his opinion, this is why Erdogan sought to bring jihadists in to take over Northern Syria rather than granting power to a rival Kurdish group.  Nevertheless, for the Kurdish people, the results of the Turkish invasion of Northern Syria are devastating.  Abdul Salam Othman, a member of the Kurdish Future Movement Party, added: “No civilians will be able to return to their homes for fear of reprisals against them.  The greatest example is Afrin.  The killings, robberies, looting and the seizure of people’s property is still going on.”

Sadly, Turkey’s invasion of Northern Syria has also emboldened the mullah’s regime in Iran.  It is one of the unintended consequences of Trump’s hasty withdrawal from Syria and his inaction towards the Iraqi and Iranian protests.  While the Trump administration has been outspoken against the mullah’s regime, this is useless if it is not backed up by actions.  Simultaneously, as the Trump administration abandoned the Iraqi and Iranian protesters, they undermined the Kurds in Syria and Iraq, which led to the embodiment not only of Erdogan’s Turkey but also Iran and other radical Islamist groups, who agreed to cooperate with Iran against the Kurds. 

As Syrian Kurdish dissident Sherkoh Abbas noted, “It is very clear that the US maintains on paper maintains a public policy that they are trying to contain Iran but we fear that they are not much better than Obama, who failed to let Iran transform from a rogue nation to a member of the world community following the 2009 protests.  Now, Trump in 2019 failed to support the Iranian people.  Thousands were killed and jailed.  There was a movement to change Iran and the US failed to lead.  This means that Iran can crush and maintain its position in Syria.  To me, they are a force to reckon with, here to stay and are going to outlast the Trump administration.  It is a threat to Israel and the world.  Even though Turkey is from a different sect of Islam, both Iran and Turkey are Muslim and have common understandings, which are on Iran, the Kurds, the US and the West and their backer Russia.  It is going to be a threat to Israel.  Whatever Trump does to contain Iran by words in reality does not change to anything meaningful.”

Dr. Nakeeb Saadoon, the head of the National Rally Call of Iraq, believes that the Iran protests were a lost opportunity and he hopes that people won’t make the same mistake with the Iraqi protests: “Iran understands that their power is getting weaker.  Now, people understand that Iran is a threat.  In the past, people thought Israel was the enemy but now people understand that Iran is the enemy.   It is important for Israel to have a good relationship with the Middle East.  It is important for Israel to keep the protests going and to make sure that they have a good future with the Iraqi people.  If that will happen, the Middle East will be a better place and then you destroy your enemy.  If not, there is more threats and hate against Israel.  It is important to help people to get rid of these dictators.  People are tired of war.  War will not make a good result.” 

Syrian dissident Sherkoh Abbas concurs, “They did not help the people on the ground that could have brought about results.  They could have brought about a change that is good for Iran and the people of the region.   The world does nothing to put pressure on Iran.  It is a recipe for people not to rise up in the future.   At this stage, it is too late but we can work for the next year few years.  We need to recognize the Kurds, Azeris, Baloch, Ahwaz Arabs and the democratic opposition.  That would bring pressure upon this administration.  That could bring a change in a few years’ time.  The words of the US administration are no longer relevant.  I think that Israel and the Gulf states must take some actions and publicly help.  Iran is publicly helping ISIS and other terror groups throughout the Middle East.  It is time for Israel and the Gulf states to support the opposition in Iran in full force.  This is more relevant for bringing about a change.”



Rachel Avraham

Rachel Avraham is a political analyst working at the Safadi Center for International Diplomacy, Research, Public Relations and Human Rights. For 7 years, she has been an Israel-based journalist, specializing in radical Islam, abuses of human rights and minority rights, counter-terrorism, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Syria, Iran, Kurdistan and other issues of importance. Avraham is the author of “Women and Jihad: Debating Palestinian Female Suicide Bombings in the American, Israeli and Arab Media," a ground-breaking book endorsed by Former Israel Consul General Yitzchak Ben Gad and Israeli Communications Minister Ayoob Kara that discusses how the media exploits the life stories of Palestinian female terrorists in order to justify wanton acts of violence. Avraham has an MA in Middle Eastern Studies from Ben-Gurion University. She received her BA in Government and Politics with minors in Jewish Studies and Middle Eastern Studies from the University of Maryland at College Park.

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