OBEID KAIFO: Trump’s abandonment of the Kurds may help the Syrians


It is quite sad, to say the least, that when writing about Syria, tears have stopped flowing from my eyes. The emotions of crying, the sounds of tears and the process of grief are all there, but the actual tears have stopped flowing from my eyes. 

The U.S. withdrawal from Syria is irrational, but may be necessary for Turkey‘s plans for major military escalation inside of Syria. I cannot help but wonder: What is it that the Syrians actually want? Did we forget where all this craziness started? It started with a people demanding for nothing more than freedom and dignity. That’s all they ever wanted. Yet, somehow our response to the protests — from the international community, special interest groups and terror groups — was to control the Syrians, to govern them and to steal their land.

That’s the message that they received; take their resources, their women and children, homes and businesses. Syrians accused of extremism and terrorism inside their own country, in the cities and neighborhoods that they’ve grown up in, are being placed in jail. Generation after generation is being imprisoned by terror groups and special interest groups. Their chants in the streets were “God, Syria, freedom, and dignity.” Yet is that the message they received? 

All of these groups are in Syria: Hezbollah, ISIS, the Iranians, the Russians, the Kurdish forces, militia groups, Al Qaeda and their off-shoot groups. They all have their own agendas and interests in Syria other than the plight of the Syrians themselves. Never have any of these groups ever done anything for the Syrian cause. It has always been a question of how can they take advantage of the circumstances to their advantage. Suddenly, the crisis in Syria has become very complex because of countless and heartless groups wanting to promote their own agendas — not the dignity and freedom of the Syrians. 

So what is a group that is so diverse both religiously and ethnically supposed to do in the middle of all of these foolish offshoot groups fighting each other? They will run or they will fight for their lives. They must put aside their own differences and their main causes in order to avoid being killed by proxy wars on their land and to avoid starvation by sanctions put upon them by both the Assad regime and the war mongers. After close to nine years of the same story over and over again from different groups every time, they are killing Syrians along the way as if this is all just a game for them to watch. Not only killing them, but torturing them, raping them, selling their organs on the black market, taking their children and forcing them into guerilla warfare.

Any changes made toward making a more safe area to live is all the more welcome. Safety is something that they need and they have been deprived of for close to a decade. A commodity that we in the United States and across Western world have taken for granted, the mere fact that you don’t have to think twice about whether or not returning home is a norm.

It goes without saying that the Syrians have suffered under the Assad regime for decades. When they finally had the courage to stand up for their rights, freedoms and their dignity, we gave them a nightmare in return. The media and both the left and the right of our political process have painted the crisis in Syria as an impossible resolution. They’ve treated it like a multifaceted, very complex issue — like a Rubik’s cube that cannot be solved. When in reality, countless people across the world have stood up against their own governments for their own rights and freedoms and yet it seems like the Syrians are being punished for having done so.

Even the United States got involved in the crisis by using ISIS as our excuse instead of fighting them ourselves. We paid a group of people already there with their own special interests to fight our battles primarily against ISIS. Fast forward to Oct. 2019, when the United States wants to withdraw from Syria and abandon our “ally” who we knew very well from the beginning had their own interests in Syria, ultimately by taking land from the Syrians and creating their own sovereign lands.

These Kurdish military groups are like ISIS groups. Isis is majority Arab and Sunni Muslim, and yet their largest count of victims are Syrians who happened to be largely Arab and Sunni. They were Syrians who were killed at the hands of ISIS, as if they were being killed at the hands of the President of Syria by torture, false imprisonments, rape and countless wars crimes. Yet, the same can be said about these Kurdish military groups that we call our “allies.” ISIS fell at the hands of the Kurdish military groups with the support of the United States acting like “mall cops.”

Now, they start to govern like ISIS did before them. Their largest group of victims were also Syrians that also happened to be of Kurdish ethnicity, so Kurdish military groups committing crimes against other Syrian Kurdish citizens. No matter the group, the victims are always the Syrian people, whether it is at the hands of ISIS or the Kurdish military groups. The United States knew as well as any layperson who understands the geopolitics and history of that region that when they started supporting the Kurdish military forces instead of the Free Syrian army, at some point the country of Turkey was going to have its reservations about the support and expansion of Kurdish military forces at its borders. As a result, now Turkey feels threatened by the increased Kurdish military forces not just in numbers but also in the level of control they have on the ground in Syria.

President Trump told President Erdogan of Turkey, that he would allow Turkey to significantly increase its military into Syria in the areas where Kurdish forces have been controlling and possibly go as far south as Idlib in some reports. Idlib has been the last stronghold for the Syrian Opposition against the Assad Regime with an estimated population of 3 million and a functional government with elections, policing and strong economy. But they are always under the threat of the Assad regime and the Russian government by flyover bombings. 

If Turkey can come into Syria, they can regain control of the areas previously held by both ISIS and Kurdish military forces and go as far south as Idlib. It would be a much better outcome for the Syrians at large for a few reasons. The Turkish government has been taking in Syrians since 2012 as refugees and the Turkish government has been in favor of the Syrian people’s rise against the Syrian government of Bashar Al Assad, allowing opposition groups against the Assad Regime to work and organize in Turkey from both a civil society and NGOs. Turkey is also a NATO ally and it’s in their best interest to see stability at the Turkish/Syrian border, particularly in the north and northeast where Syrians are suffering, particularly Kurdish Syrians under Kurdish military forces. Turkey would go after those military groups it sees to be a threat to their Turkish sovereignty but it would also be naturally creating a large “safe zone” for Syrians.

The Syrian people would finally have a chance at some sort of normalcy. This would of course only be temporary until there can finally be some sort of political reconciliation. With the President of Syria, Assad, not in power any more and a transitional government put in place, that would ideally be similar to the governing system in Idlib with free and open elections, freedoms and rights being exercised by Syrian citizens as they always wanted from the beginning. Only under those conditions would Syria as a whole and Syrians at large finally have their chants of “God, Syria, freedom and dignity” be answered.

Obeid Kaifo is a first-generation Syrian-American, Muslim millennial from Colorado. Kaifo, is a National Board Member of the Syrian American Council.