Many in the media are talking about how Trump referred to a Kurdish journalist as “Mr. Kurd”, but they’re missing the major strategic insinuation that he made when responding to his question.
The latest “viral” video circulating about Trump is how he referred to a Kurdish journalist as “Mr. Kurd” when calling upon him during yesterday’s press conference, but the masses are missing the major strategic insinuation that he made when responding to his question. Here’s the relevant transcript:
“TRUMP: Yes, please. Mr. Kurd (ph). Go ahead.
QUESTION: Thank you very much for your time, Mr. President. Two quickly questions. What will be the USA relations with the Kurds —
TRUMP: Oh, I thought —
QUESTION: — post ISIS — post ISIS? And —
TRUMP: OK. We’re trying to get along very well — we do get along great with the Kurds. We’re trying to help them a lot. Don’t forget, that’s their territory. We have to help them. I want to help them. Go ahead, what’s next. They fought with us. They fought with us. They died with us.
They died. We lost — tens of thousands of Kurds died fighting ISIS.
They died for us and with us and for themselves. They died for themselves. But they’re great people. And we have not forget — we don’t forget — I don’t forget what happens someday later, but I can tell you that I don’t forget. These are great people.”
Trump not only stressed the battlefield comradery between American troops and their Kurdish counterparts, but he also remarked that the lands under their military control are “their territory”, seemingly implying the presence of a ‘Kurdish homeland’ in Syria.
Nothing of the sort exists because they aren’t indigenous to any part of northeastern Syria, let alone the Arab-majority regions that their military forces are currently occupying through the so-called “Syrian Democratic Forces” (SDF) coalition. They mostly came to Syria after World War I, not beforehand.
That doesn’t seem to matter to Trump since he probably made that exaggerated claim in order to lend normative “legitimacy” to their quest for an autonomous region in post-Daesh Syria that they hope will be codified into law through the ongoing constitutional reform process mandated by UNSC 2254.
Furthermore, Trump also said that “tens of thousands of Kurds died fighting ISIS”, which isn’t anywhere near true. Although the author was unable to find accurate figures about the total number of YPG fighters that were killed since the conflict began, the group’s website nevertheless did have some data.
According to the organization itself, 968 SDF fighters were killed last year after they took over 755 “villages, towns, and many significant areas” during what is internationally regarded as the most active period of their hostilities with Daesh. It’s therefore unbelievable that “tens of thousands” died earlier.
Trump’s hyperbole should thus be seen as serving the strategic purpose of “legitimizing” the Kurds’ post-war administrative claims and insinuating that the US military will continue to support them, especially when one remembers that the Americans are reported to have around 20 bases there, too.
His ebullient praise of the YPG should also be interpreted as taunting Turkey, which regards that group as terrorists, and further weakening the already fraught relationship between these two Great Powers. It also signals to Russia that the US will accept nothing less than autonomy for the Kurds in Syria.
In turn, Russia will probably try to more “actively encourage” Damascus to “compromise” on the issue of “decentralization” and accept that it’s militarily impossible for the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) to liberate the US-occupied Kurd-controlled region, especially since Russia won’t risk World War III to support it.
In addition and given Trump’s public commitment to the “Kurdish cause” in Syria, the SAA shouldn’t get any ideas about prospectively using the forthcoming S-300s to interfere with American flights over that agriculturally and energy-rich region of the country despite having the sovereign right to do so.
To put it plainly, the major strategic insinuation that Trump made after his “Mr. Kurd” quip and which most of the world missed is that the de-facto “partition” of Syria is already a fait accompli. The US won’t ‘betray’ the Kurds, so sooner than later, Damascus will just have to deal with this ‘inconvenient’ reality.