Belmont Club

I'm Just a Gigolo

A mistress seldom reflects that if she can persuade a husband to betray his wife she might someday be the next to be cheated on. For any arrangement founded on dishonesty suffers from the danger that you may be deceived in turn. In the context of politics the relevant question to ask is why the administration, having betrayed the Kurds, should not betray someone else. The Kurds have long been a pawn in regional politics.

In 1975 Congress, concerned by Watergate and possible illegal clandestine activities, created the Pike Committee to examine CIA effectiveness and its cost to taxpayers. It soon clashed with the CIA and the White House over access to classified documents. Although Congress voted to never publish the Committee’s report, copies were leaked to the Village Voice. The report noted, among other things, the Kurds had agreed to resume their war for autonomy against the Iraqi Government with support from the Shah of Iran and assurances from the United States Government that it would help as well. The report stated that while Barzani often “expressed his distrust” of the Shah, he trusted the United States. It concluded the United States and Iran actually “hoped that our clients [the Kurds] would not prevail. They preferred instead that the insurgents simply continue a level of hostilities sufficient to sap the resources of our ally’s [Iran’s] neighboring country [Iraq].” Of course, “this policy was not imparted to our clients, who were encouraged to continue fighting. Even in the context of covert action, ours was a cynical enterprise.”

They’ve been shafted again. The editors of Bloomberg note that the Turks are watching ISIS destroy the Kurds, in much the same way as the Soviets stood by and let the Nazis crush the Warsaw uprising. You will remember that the Second World War, “Winston Churchill pleaded with Stalin and Franklin D. Roosevelt to help Britain’s Polish allies, to no avail. Then, without Soviet air clearance, Churchill sent over 200 low-level supply drops by the Royal Air Force, the South African Air Force and the Polish Air Force under British High Command. Later, after gaining Soviet air clearance, the US Army Air Force sent one high-level mass airdrop as part of Operation Frantic. The Soviet Union refused to allow American bombers from Western Europe to land on Soviet airfields after dropping supplies to the Poles.”

What’s old is new again. Bloomberg describes how the Turks are watching the Kurds die:

In blocking the resupply of the Kurdish fighters who are trying desperately to hold off a siege by Islamic State in Kobani, Syria, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is making a decision that may haunt Turkey for years to come.

This is not just about Turkey’s failure to join the U.S.-led coalition against Islamic State. It also threatens Turkey’s fragile truce with its Kurdish minority, many of whom are growing impatient with the sight of Turkish soldiers watching, from their side of the border, as Islamic State attacks Kobani.

As in the days of the Shah, the Kurds who had no faith in  regional allies put their trust in America. Why? Maybe that old black magic, some residual sentimentality compounded of Shane and High Noon and Saving Private Ryan and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington persuaded the Kurds against their better judgment to roll the dice one more time. But it’s come up snake eyes.  Like CNN says “several senior U.S. administration officials said Kobani will soon fall to ISIS, which calls itself the Islamic State. They downplayed the importance of it, saying the city is not a major U.S. concern.”

Red State bitterly accuses Obama of betraying the Kurds to keep Turkey in his “coalition” of Judases. He quotes extensively from an exchange between Jen Psaki and a Kurdish reporter who asks her why the airstrikes against ISIS have been so few in number.

QUESTION: Over the past 24 hours, we’ve seen only one strike, according to the Central Command, around Kobani. I don’t really understand why there hasn’t been more attacks while large numbers of ISIS fighters are closing in on Kobani. And according to CNN and some other American media reports, they have raised the American flag – the – sorry, Islamic flag over some buildings inside Kobani. Why hasn’t been there more strikes?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I know we have this exchange kind of every single day, which is absolutely fine, but you’re talking about one strike in the last 24 hours. That was the update, you’re right, that came from CENTCOM. There were – that strike destroyed two ISIL fighting positions south of Kobani. Other recent strikes have hit two modular oil refineries, an ISIL training camp, an ISIL-occupied building. So this is an ongoing effort.

Robert Zubrin at the National Review is more categorical. Obama is betraying the Kurds. Period.

As these lines are being written, some 400,000 Kurds in and around the town of Kobane in northern Syria, on the Turkish border, are being besieged and assaulted by massed legions of Islamic State killers armed with scores of tanks, armored personnel carriers, and heavy artillery. Against these, the Kurdish defenders have only AK-47s and rocket-propelled grenades. The Kurds have called on the U.S. to send in air strikes to take out the jihadist forces. In response, the administration sent in two fighter jets Saturday, which destroyed two Islamic State tanks and then flew away. The Kurds are begging for arms. The administration has not only refused to send arms, but is exerting pressure both on our NATO allies and on Israel not to send any either. Over 150,000 Kurds have fled their homes to try to escape to Turkey, but they are being blocked at the border by Turkish troops. Meanwhile, Turkey is allowing Islamist reinforcements to enter Syria to join the Islamic State, while Islamist elements of the Free Syrian Army, funded and armed by the United States, have joined forces with the group in the genocidal assault on the Kurdish enclave.

And there’s the Independent, which is a left of center publication who write “Kurds vented their fury at the Turkish government for standing by as Isis fighters looked poised to take the Syrian Kurdish town of Kobani in view of the Turkish border and the watching Turkish army … The capture of Kobani by Isis may be a turning point in the present crisis in Iraq and Syria because it marks the failure of the US plan to contain Isis using air power alone. President Obama promised less than a month ago ‘to degrade and destroy’ the fundamentalists with air power, but Isis is still expanding and winning.”

Ok, they’ve been sold out. The question is: in exchange for what? This goes to the very heart of any cynical (and I know dear readers that you have no objection to cynicism per se) appraisal of betrayal. Who’s is the shafter and who are the shaftees? Are the Kurds being betrayed for some possibly greater good, which Obama will doubtlessly identify by and by, or is Washington just the flunkey for the men in the flowing robes?

Perhaps the answer is provided by the New York Times. Joe Biden said in response to a question at the Kennedy School that America has to proceed warily against ISIS, lest it tread on Turkey’s toe. Or on the sandaled feet of the Saudis.

WASHINGTON — Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. has one more stop on what has become a Middle East apology tour in the wake of his impolitic answer to a Harvard student’s question: Saudi Arabia.

After apologizing to officials from Turkey and the United Arab Emirates over the weekend, Mr. Biden is trying to connect with Saudi leaders, a senior official said, to clarify that he did not mean to suggest that Saudi Arabia backed Al Qaeda or other extremist groups in Syria.

The vice president’s troubles began Thursday when he declared, in a question-and-answer session at the John F. Kennedy School of Government, that the biggest problem the United States faced in dealing with Syria and the rise of the Islamic State was America’s allies in the region.

Turkey, Mr. Biden said, has admitted allowing foreign fighters to cross into Syria, while Turkey, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia funneled weapons and other aid to Syrian rebels that ended up in the hands of the Nusra Front, Al Qaeda and other extremist groups.

And that sensitivity, more than the fearsome air defenses of ISIS, is probably what is keeping US airpower at bay. The president is committed to jaw-jaw. And since he must jaw-jaw with the Turks, Iran, the UAE, and the Saudis, that means the Kurds must die-die.  It looks an awful lot like the administration is doing the bidding of its allies and not the other way around.  Maybe that’s what “leading from behind” really amounts to. Perhaps the administration has been promised that if they go along with Turkey, Anakara will clamp down on ISIS — someday soon. Just you wait and see.

But the cynical question remains: would you buy a used car from this administration, maybe the same one they bought from Turkey? Would you trust your life to them? Because ultimately you are, just as the Kurds did. But a  lot of LIVs will reason that they can trust Obama because it’s them and he is their beloved … so this time it will be different.  They won’t be shafted. No they won’t.

I walk along the street of sorrow
The boulevard of broken dreams
Where Gigolo and Gigolette
Can take a kiss without regret
And so forget their broken dreams.

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