Military Leaders Fear They’ve Seen This Before. It Ended in the Iraq War.Breaking News
tags: Middle East, military history, Syria, Iraq War, Kurds
The last time the United States abandoned allies in the Middle East, military officials say, it helped lead to the Iraq war.
Now, almost 30 years later, President Trump has pulled American special forces and support troops away from Kurdish allies in northern Syria, easing the way for Turkey’s promised offensive, which began on Wednesday.
It is too soon to say with any certainty where Mr. Trump’s abandonment of the Kurdish fighters who did the heavy lifting in the fight against the Islamic State will lead. But already, anguished American military and national security officials are sounding alarms that clearing the way for Turkey to bomb the Kurds could have long-term repercussions, just as the desertion of allies did then.
“In the course of American history, when we have stuck with our allies in troubling circumstances, from the U.K. and Australia under attack in WWII to South Korea in the Korean War, things tend to work out to our benefit,” said James G. Stavridis, a retired admiral and former supreme allied commander for Europe. “When we walk away from loyal allies, as we did in Vietnam and are now threatening to do in Afghanistan and Syria, the wheels come off.”
But even more, they fear that the next time the United States is looking for help from fighters on the ground in the region, the Americans will not be able to find it.
This has happened before. In February 1991, as the Desert Storm campaign was unfolding in Iraq, President George Bush, during a rally in Andover, Mass., suggested that the Iraqi people “take matters into their own hands and force Saddam Hussein, the dictator, to step aside.”
Two weeks later, Mr. Bush made another call to arms, saying that putting Hussein “aside” would “facilitate the resolution of all these problems that exist and certainly would facilitate the acceptance of Iraq back into the family of peace-loving nations.”
Iraq’s feared Republican Guard did not heed Mr. Bush. But the Shiites and the Kurds did. On March 1, the day after Mr. Bush halted the Desert Storm war effort, Iraqi Shiites in the south and Kurds in the north began a rebellion against Hussein.
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