President Trump’s decision to give a green light for a Turkish invasion of Kurdish-populated regions of northern Syria has been faced with swift bipartisan opposition. Apparently, no one in the diplomatic, military or intelligence community — much less the leadership of the self-governing Kurdish enclave the U.S. has armed and supported and is now under siege — was consulted beforehand. U.S. troops should indeed be withdrawn from Syria, but the U.S. soldiers removed from the border area where Turkish forces are now attacking are not being sent home, and instead are simply being redeployed elsewhere in northeastern Syria. Trump’s sudden and apparently impulsive move following a conversation with authoritarian Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (one of a number of autocratic leaders with whom Trump has developed a close relationship) is dangerous and irresponsible.
What many of the commentators are ignoring is that this is hardly the first time the United States has goaded Kurds to fight and then abandoned them to slaughter.
The Kurds are a nation of more than 30 million people divided among six countries, primarily in what is now northern Iraq and southeastern Turkey, with smaller numbers in northeastern Syria, northwestern Iran and the Caucasus. They are the world’s largest nation without a state of their own. Their struggle for self-determination has been hampered by the sometimes-bitter rivalry between competing nationalist groups, some of which have been used as pawns by regional powers as well as by the United States.
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Stephen Zunes (born 1956) is an American international relations scholar specializing in the Middle Eastern politics, U.S. foreign policy, and strategic nonviolent action. He is known internationally as a leading critic of United States policy in the Middle East, particularly under the George W. Bush administration, and an analyst of nonviolent civil insurrections against autocratic regimes.
Stephen has been at the University of San Franscico since 1995, teaching courses on the politics of the Middle East and other regions, nonviolence, conflict resolution, U.S. foreign policy, and globalization. He served as the founder and first director of the Middle Eastern Studies Program.
A prominent specialist on U.S. Middle East policy, Professor Zunes has presented hundreds of public lectures and conference papers in both the United States and over a dozen foreign countries. He has traveled frequently to the Middle East and other conflict regions, meeting with prominent government officials, scholars, and dissidents. He has served as a political analyst for local, national, and international radio and television and as a columnist for several print and online publications, and has published hundreds of articles in academic journals, anthologies, magazines, and elsewhere on such topics as U.S. foreign policy, Middle Eastern politics, Latin American politics, African politics, human rights, arms control, social movements, and nonviolent action. He has served as a writer and senior analyst for Foreign Policy in Focus, an associate editor for Peace Review, and a contributing editor of Tikkun.