The Kurdish People Made a Deal With the Devil

Ryan Lau | @ryanlau71r

The Kurdish people have been in a pickle for decades. As Turkey begins an assault against the stateless nation, the situation only appears to be worsening; many people across the globe have placed blame on President Trump for moving small numbers of troops away from the Kurdish region of Syria. But it’s far from the first time the United States has turned blind eye to their so-called ally in the Middle East, so why does Kurdistan continue to place faith in the Pentagon?

A Cycle of Kurdish Betrayal

US history of Kurdish abandonment goes back nearly a hundred years to the fall of the Ottoman Empire. The nation temporarily supported a treaty that would give the Kurds a state but quickly retracted after Turkish backlash. This double-crossing continued into the ’60s when America supported a coup against the leader of the Iraqi Kurds. From then on, the country alternated between protecting the Kurds and allowing others to destroy them.

Though Trump is the latest iteration of so-called betrayal, he merely serves as the latest figurehead in a long line of backstabbing. Though there is nothing wrong with withholding money from another country, this back-and-forth that has occurred is vicious and cruel. The Kurdish people have relied on America repeatedly, only for the militant nation to falter after each empty promise.

Over this span, the United States has acted as a classic novel character, frequently breaking trust before seeking an alliance once more. With each successive promise, the reader loses faith in the traitor, but the character maintains trust for reasons that often elicit groans from the audience. We think from beyond the situation that the protagonists must be stupid to make another deal with the devil.

The Kurdish people, however, aren’t stupid. They’re a tough group that has faced persecution from all sides and managed to stay upright. Against the odds, they eke out an existence in hostile territory; compared to many places in the Middle East, they’re a forward-thinking group with eyes that look forward to a future of prosperity. Why, then, do they continually fall into the same trap?

A State of Desperation

North of Kurdistan, Turkey sits, armed to the teeth. We already know how that’s going. Iraq, south of the stateless nation, has been a hair friendlier, but largely because they’ve had enough internal conflict to deal with. Syria is in the same boat. Iran occupies the land east of Kurdistan and has a long history of its own imperialism in the region.

In short, Kurdistan is surrounded and doesn’t have anywhere else to turn. The United States, for what it’s worth, gives foreign aid to 179 different countries; it isn’t a surprise that they would at least consider assisting the Kurds. At times, of course, they have indeed done so.

us foreign aid kurdish people
US foreign aid by country, 2017

The above graph shows the plethora of countries that the United States sends foreign aid to each year. With countries such as Israel and Palestine (West Bank/Gaza) appearing prominently, it’s clear that America has a knack for heavily arming both sides of conflicts. Unsurprisingly, this also applies to Kurdistan.

As I stated previously, the power players boxing in the Kurdish people are Turkey, Iraq, Iran, and Syria, none of which are dovish countries. All of them receive US aid annually. Though Iran gets less than a million dollars, Iraq is second in the world with $3.7 billion in the fiscal year 2017. Likewise, Syria raked in nearly a billion; Turkey netted a more moderate but still significant $153 million.

The obvious conclusion is dire. The Kurdish people, supposed allies of the United States, are surrounded—by hostile armies that American taxpayers continue to fund. Of course, not all of the aid eventually goes towards provocations with Kurdistan. Nonetheless, the imperialist country has used it to provide weapons to the opponent nations.

In 2015, the United States delivered F-16 Fighting Falcons to Iraq for use in the fight against ISIS. Obviously, this does nothing to prevent them from using the American planes to hunt down American allies. Though the US may stop supplying new units and repairs for the planes, it’s a little too late to take them back.

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Similarly, Turkey relies on American military equipment; they operate a fleet of American-built M-60 tanks and in the past couple of years, have actually used these weapons directly against the Kurds.

Without a doubt, the Kurdish people are in a desperate bind. Pressed on all sides, where else do they have to turn but the country that gives what isn’t theirs to just about anyone who asks? Perhaps like the novel character, the United States can take advantage of a critical power imbalance; the Kurds can’t really afford to say no. Consistency is a luxury that the Kurdish people simply cannot afford in their bleak situation.

As a result, the Kurds should be prepared for future American betrayals and the world should not be surprised when they occur. If history is any indicator, it very well could be within the next decade. Yeah, the Kurdish people made a deal with the devil and now they’re getting burned. But as their enemies make the same deal and emerge unscathed, what other options did they really have?


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