Tur­key is com­mit­ting war crimes against Kurds with Trump’s help

The Korea Times - - OPINION - By Trudy Ru­bin Trudy Ru­bin (tru­[email protected]) is a colum­nist and ed­i­to­rial board mem­ber for the Philadel­phia Inquirer. Her com­men­tary was dis­trib­uted by Tri­bune Con­tent Agency, LLC. We wel­come your ar­ti­cles for the Thoughts of The Times and let­ters c

Don­ald J. Trump will go down in his­tory as fully com­plicit in Turk­ish war crimes. Un­less, that is, he picks up his phone and tells Turk­ish Pres­i­dent Re­cep Tayyip Er­do­gan to halt his mur­der­ous at­tack on Syr­ian Kurds im­me­di­ately — or face dra­co­nian U.S. sanc­tions.

“War crimes” are the only way to de­scribe what Trump has set in mo­tion with his feck­less phone call that green-lit Er­do­gan’s in­va­sion of Syria. Be­cause make no mis­take, what Trump’s buddy is do­ing has noth­ing to do with fight­ing ISIS, and ev­ery­thing to do with de­stroy­ing the Kurds.

Within the first 24 hours of their in­va­sion, Turk­ish forces had al­ready driven at least 100,000 Kur­dish civil­ians out of two cities near the Turk­ish bor­der, many of them flee­ing on foot with only the clothes they were wear­ing. “These cities are al­most empty from civil­ians who have fled to the coun­try­side,” I was told by Syr­ian Kur­dish jour­nal­ist Rodi Hasan.

The Turks have al­ready moved on to shelling other ma­jor Kur­dish cities, like the cap­i­tal, Qamishli.

“He is de­lib­er­ately bomb­ing the civil­ian pop­u­la­tion,” says Steve Gu­maer, pres­i­dent of Part­ners Re­lief and De­vel­op­ment, a small hu­man­i­tar­ian re­lief agency that has staff in north­ern Syria.

Gu­maer’s brave team are risk­ing their lives to dis­trib­ute mat­tresses and blankets to des­per­ate Kurds flee­ing south to­ward the city of Hasaka. But the Turks have de­lib­er­ately shelled the wa­ter sta­tion serv­ing Hasaka, en­sur­ing that the flood of dis­placed per­sons won’t have wa­ter to sur­vive.

So when Trump said ear­lier last week he ex­pected Er­do­gan to con­duct the of­fen­sive “in as hu­mane a way as pos­si­ble,” his ig­no­rance was sick­en­ing.

Er­do­gan has re­peat­edly made clear that his goal in north­ern Syria was to drive out Kurds and re­place them with Sunni Arabs. He pro­vided a graphic ex­am­ple in early 2018, when Turk­ish forces in­vaded Syria and seized the Kur­dish-ma­jor­ity city of Afrin (far­ther west than the area of the cur­rent in­va­sion).

Tens of thou­sands of civil­ians fled Afrin, along with Kur­dish troops. Ankara re­placed them with Syr­ian Arab refugees liv­ing in Tur­key, in­clud­ing armed Is­lamist mili­tias. A U.N. com­mis­sion of in­quiry says these armed groups per­se­cute any­one who ob­jects to Turk­ish oc­cu­pa­tion or the Is­lamists.

Afrin is the tem­plate for what Er­do­gan will do with the rest of Syr­ian Kur­dis­tan — un­less he is stopped.

Yet last Mon­day a delu­sional Trump de­fended his phone call with Er­do­gan thus: “I spoke with Pres­i­dent Er­do­gan of Tur­key, and I said, ‘Got to treat them (the Kurds) good, and you got to take care of ISIS.’” Given such delu­sions about Er­do­gan — and his own bril­liance — no won­der Trump got rolled.

In fact, Er­do­gan has zero in­ter­est in “tak­ing care of ISIS.” The Turk­ish leader was no­to­ri­ous for let­ting ISIS fight­ers cross the Turk­ish bor­der freely, even let­ting wounded ISIS fight­ers use Turk­ish hos­pi­tals. Nor will the Turks as­sume the role of guard­ing tens of thou­sands of ISIS pris­on­ers if Kur­dish guards leave to de­fend Kur­dish cities. Ex­pect prison breaks.

In­deed, rather than stop an “end­less war,” Trump is on the way to re­viv­ing ISIS. But this time the Kurds won’t be there to put the Is­lamists down.

As­sailed by GOP se­na­tors, and even con­ser­va­tive Chris­tian lead­ers, for sell­ing out the Kurds, Trump has called the Turk­ish in­va­sion “a bad idea”— a weasel-worded ef­fort to white­wash his role.

“I hope we can me­di­ate (be­tween Turks and Kurds),” the pres­i­dent said Thurs­day.

But me­di­a­tion is just what U.S. diplo­mats have been do­ing for months, try­ing to get the Turks to ac­cept a nar­row, demil­i­ta­rized buf­fer strip along the bor­der. With one phone call, Trump ended that U.S. ef­fort. And any­way, it isn’t what Er­do­gan wants.

The only slim hope of thwart­ing Er­do­gan is for Trump to make an­other call, ASAP, to his Turk­ish buddy. The mes­sage: “Cease fire on and with­draw from Kur­dish cities or else I will keep my pledge to ‘wipe out’ your econ­omy with sanc­tions.”

A bi­par­ti­san ma­jor­ity in Congress is ea­ger to pass sanc­tions against Tur­key and its leadership, but only a strong Trump stance would con­vince Ankara the threat was real.

Yet Trump hasn’t re­scinded his in­vi­ta­tion for Er­do­gan to visit the White House next month. And U.S. diplo­mats on Thurs­day stood with Rus­sia at the United Na­tions in op­pos­ing a res­o­lu­tion con­demn­ing Tur­key’s in­va­sion. How vile is that!

Aware of con­gres­sional wrath, Er­do­gan is mov­ing fast. There are al­most no hu­man­i­tar­ian aid groups still work­ing in north­ern Syria, so a tsunami of Kurds may be com­pelled to cross into the Kur­dish re­gion of Iraq.

That would cre­ate a hu­man­i­tar­ian dis­as­ter of mas­sive pro­por­tions. Iraqi Kur­dis­tan, with a pop­u­la­tion of 8 mil­lion, can­not han­dle that bur­den. (It is al­ready host­ing 1.5 mil­lion Iraqi and Syr­ian refugees from ISIS, in­clud­ing many Chris­tians, who can’t go home.)

Trump al­ready has Kur­dish blood on his hands, but he has a slim chance to thwart Er­do­gan’s com­plete plans.

Here comes the test of whether the GOP se­na­tors and tel­e­van­ge­lists who have slammed Er­do­gan are or are not to­tal hyp­ocrites: Will they de­mand that Trump act now to save the Kurds?

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