The Kurds are the only actual friend America has in the Iraq/Syria/ISIS zone. The powerful affection they have for the United States dates to the 1990s when we protected them from the depredations of Saddam Hussein with no-fly zones and a deployment of Army Special Forces on the ground. President Obama has done almost nothing to help them since taking office and now seems to have given Turkey a green light to attack them. This is a major mistake that must be rectified immediately.
There is a longstanding, often violent, dispute between these two. The Kurds are working to make the goal of their own state a reality. The problem is Kurdistan would include parts of Turkey, Iraq, Syria and Iran. This creates problems for the Kurds with all of those countries in various ways. Now that Turkey has joined the fight against the Islamic State (ISIS) in the border regions of Iraq and Syria they are taking advantage of that activity to deal some major damage to the Kurds as well.
This comes right on the heels of an announcement that Turkey will allow the U.S. to use Incirlik Air Base to conduct operations against ISIS. This is a major concession the U.S. has been working to gain and it seems the price was to throw the Kurds under the bus. President Obama also holds a misguided belief the Iranians are a potential ally in the effort to counter ISIS. The possibility of Iran also stepping up its own campaigns against the Kurds, just like Turkey, seems more likely now as well.
The Kurdish Peshmerga have been the most effective fighting force against ISIS in the region and could do even more if they had proper arms and support. They have received little of that from the Iraqi government despite promises it would share the military aid the US supplies. This new allegiance with Turkey seems to have relegated the Kurds to a bargaining chip in a game we are losing badly. There is even a proposal from the Turkish government to declare an ISIS-free safe haven in Northern Syria near the Turkish border to be administered by Syrian rebels. These rebels just happen to be al Qaeda affiliated and no friends of the Kurdish forces who control most of the border between Syria and Turkey.
The string of awful decisions President Obama has made regarding Iraq and Syria has greatly exacerbated the chaos and bloodshed in both countries. His first bad call, soon after his first inauguration, was to withdraw from Iraq, which created the vacuum ISIS and Iran filled. He took a war we had won on the ground and threw the peace away. Whether you agreed with the decision to depose Saddam Hussein or not, the move to abandon a nascent democracy we midwifed into existence is now self-evidently a mistake.
The next miscalculation has been to treat Iran as a potential ally rather than the main source of violent aggression in the region. The Iranians are now the trusted partner, or more accurately, puppet masters, of the Baghdad government. The Iranian-backed Shiite militias are the main shock troops in the battle against ISIS and sectarian violence by them against Sunni civilians has already begun. One of the reasons given to lift the conventional arms embargo on Iran in the proposed nuclear deal was they were helping us in the fight against ISIS. Whatever they are doing regarding that, they are also supplying weapons to Hezbollah, Hamas and other terrorist groups and using them against the Kurds in their own border regions. There is no stabilizing or positive purpose Iran is employing military hardware to achieve, so allowing them to use the windfall from the nuclear deal to rearm is outrageous.
President Obama seems to be following a strategy of abandoning our friends and empowering our enemies. Outside of the Oval Office there is a strong consensus the Kurds are a friend we should not allow to be subjected to this fundamental transformation of our strategic alliances. Iran is our enemy, Turkey is a partner we need to keep a close eye on and the Kurds are presently our ally. We must prevail on the President to recognize the truth in that calculation, prevent any Iranian actions against the Kurds and put an immediate stop to the Turkish attacks. Once that is done we can discuss positive steps like arming the Peshmerga directly. We could use at least one ally in the fight against ISIS we can trust.