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Trump Decision on Kurds Triggers Alarm in Arab World

A Turkish miltary convoy is pictured in Kilis near the Turkish-Syrian border, Turkey, Oct. 9, 2019.

As the Turkish military attacks Kurdish targets in northeastern Syria, observers in Arab countries are alarmed by what they see as the U.S. betrayal of the Kurds who are a staunch ally of the United States.

U.S. President Donald Trump denies the United States has abandoned its Kurdish allies in Syria. Jordanian analyst Osama al Sharif says the announcement to leave the Kurds to fend for themselves against the powerful NATO member, Turkey, has sent jitters among other US allies.

"For American allies the region, it definitely sends a very serious and disturbing message that nobody can rely on Mr. Trump for help when help is needed," he said. "That happened to Saudi Arabia when Aramco was hit, and they expected some sort of stronger American reaction. Israel, itself, was stunned by the declaration because it changes the whole delicate geopolitical balance in Syria in favor of Israel’s foes.

"It was shocking to see Mr. Trump seemingly abandon the Kurds without recalling the sacrifice they made to rid Syria of Islamic State militants, known in Arabic as Daesh, particularly as Turkish President Recep Tayyib Erdogan permitted foreign jihadists to cross into Syria in the first place," al Sharif added.

He noted that the Kurds lost 11,000 of their own fighting Islamic State in Syria.

"American lost not a single man in Syria, so to be abandoned in this way and to be sold out to the Turks. You know how Erdogan personally and his party feel about the Kurds. So, you can expect the worst, if they are left alone. There are lots of questions about what will Turkey do if it does take over these Daesh detainees," al Sharif told VOA.

Christians in northeast Syria, mainly Syriacs, also fought alongside the Kurds to defeat Islamic State militants. Political leader Bassam Ishak, who heads the Syriac National Council, says they, too, feel betrayed.

"The decision by President Trump is viewed negatively, and it revives fears of the massacres of 1915. There is no trust of Turkey especially after what Turkey and its allied Syrian forces did in Afrin in 2018 where they forced religious minorities—Yazidis and Christians—out, and those who stayed on were persecuted and forced to convert," he said.

Trump on Tuesday defended his decision to withdraw from Syria while tweeting, “in no way have we Abandoned the Kurds, who are special people and wonderful fighters."

Analysts warn that the Kurds will not be able to protect thousands of captured Islamic State prisoners when a Turkish incursion takes place. They also say it will force the Kurds to make a deal with Damascus leading to Iran’s growing influence in Syria.

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