How will it play in Peoria?
As predicted, Turkish aircraft artillery and tanks are now attacking the Kurds, America’s former ally. After President Trump withdrew a symbolic American force out of the Kurdish enclave in northeast Syria, Turkish leader Erdogan kept his promise and ordered his army to wipe out the Kurdish fighters who have played such a key role in halting the ISIS advance. In defending their enclave, the Kurds suffered thousands of killed and wound in defeating ISIS. It is undeniably a betrayal of a trusted American ally.
Some of Trump’s most loyal supporters, such as Senator Lindsey Graham and former ambassador Nikki Haley, have condemned the President’s hasty step. Just two days into the Turkish invasion, Erdogan declared that 109 “terrorists” (Kurds) had been killed, and counting. Tens of thousands of Kurdish civilians are now fleeing for their lives from the Turkish army. In a bizarre comment, Trump berated the Kurds for not aiding America in the invasion of Normandy during WWII.
Also, this week, Israel again marked the anniversary of the Yom Kippur War in October 1973. Then, the Egyptian and Syrian armies launched a “surprise” attack, nearly wiping the Jewish state off the map. There is a connection between these two separate events, but first, it is necessary to examine each in greater detail. Then it will become clear that those who are weak in the Middle East and unable to defend themselves should not expect any mercy.
The Kurds, America’s former ally in Northeastern Syria
While defending themselves from ISIS, they also proved on the battlefield their loyalty to the US. They had expected that America would reciprocate by supporting the Kurds’ longtime dream of establishing an independent Kurdish state in their historic homeland located at the juncture of Turkey, Iran, Syria, and Iraq. Before WWI, this region was dominated by Turkey’s former ottoman empire that ruled much of the Middle East with an iron fist. For decades the Kurds have been striving for national self-determination, primarily against Turkey. With the advent of the ISIS threat, bent on conquest not only in the Middle East but worldwide, even to the US. In their drive through northern Syria stood the brave Kurdish male and female fighters; they were not found wanting. Consider that the ISIS terrorists were very worried about fighting female Kurdish soldiers. They believed that if they were killed by one of these women, they would not get their free pass to paradise, and their 72 virgins.
So the Kurds were riding high in the hope that America would support their dream of a Kurdish homeland. Alas, President Donald Trump has sourly disappointed them by giving Turkey the green light to clobber the Kurds once and for all. But let’s not forget that Trump warned Erdogan not to go too far because the US would then impose economic sanctions. But what good would this do for the Kurdish fighters and civilians who are being killed and wounded in the Turkish onslaught? It should also be noted that the Turks perpetrated a mini holocaust, wiping out an estimated 1.5 million Armenian civilians in the wake of WWI. This despite the futile warnings and wringing of hands by international leaders and figures. So far, Israel remains mum. In the past, the IDF did supply military aid and advisors to the Kurdish rebels. But there is no sign of this at present.
Trump’s cold shoulder to the Kurds, while not unexpected, has naturally raised eyebrows in Jerusalem. In effect, Trump is now echoing words of his predecessor Barack Obama, who also preached a total US pullout from the Middle East. (However, Trump may also be hoping to gain some popularity points in the opinion polls faced with his current Ukraine imbroglio.
There is also a stark message to the Jewish state that it must always be prepared to defend itself and never depend on big brother USA” This has always been Israel’s position, that it will not depend on American forces to protect itself, as do Germany, the other NATO allies, as well as Japan and South Korea. The cost of this American defense shield in defense aid that includes a stationing of American military personal in these countries far exceeds the annual 4 billion dollars of military aid to Israel that critics, as well as outright antisemites, like to deride.
The Jewish state does depend on Washington for advanced weaponry, and in return, the IDF tests them under combat positions. This is of invaluable assistance to the US military. As former defense Minister Ash Carter once said, “This Israeli input saves American lives!” A current example of this is the F-35 aircraft that has not seen action with the Israeli airforce. Not only is the US airforce getting valuable input, but it is also a strong selling point America’s other allies, “If Israeli pilots praise it to high heaven, that’s good enough for us too.”
No (surprise) attacks for Israel next time
Israel again remembered the Yom Kippur War of 1973 when it was nearly defeated by the combined assault of the Egyptian and Syrian armies. With the passage of time, it has become clear that one of the reasons the IDF did not call up the reserves in time was due to “what will the Americans think?” Considered this – the Mossad and part of the IDF’s intelligence branch did have prior information that the Egyptian and Syrian armies were planning a massing surprise attack. This included last-minute information from an Egyptian spy. However, when Israel conveyed this to its American allies, Secretary of State and the US intelligence community did not agree that the Egyptian and Syrian armies would dare go to war on October 6.
IDF Chief of Staff David Elazar wanted to order an emergency call-up of the reserves to beef up the sparsely deployed IDF forces along the Suez canal and on the Golan Heights. However, defense Minister Moshe Dayan opposed the emergency call-up believing such a dramatic step could spark an Egyptian-Syrian attack and that Washington would blame Israel for starting the war. In those hectic hours, prime minister Golda Mair sided with Dayan and agreed on no mass call-up of the reserves. The result was the vastly outnumbered Israeli forces were pulverized, suffering significant losses until the reserves finally arrived. The IDF then had to regroup. The situation was so perilous that defense minister Moshe Dayan even warned that Israel could be in danger of falling! However, Kissinger and President Nixon finally realized the dire situation and launched a major airlift to resupply the IDF’s depleted arsenal.
This painful lesson has been learned by both Israel’s political and military leadership. Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu expressed a widely head Israel view that if Israel is every threatened again with imminent destruction, it will not hesitate or seek anyone’s permission before it launches a preemptive strike.