“The protection of ISIS prisons will not remain our priority. The defense of our soil will be prioritized if [the] Turkish military continues its attacks.”
Local authorities report that at least 750 people suspected of being affiliated with the Islamic State have escaped a camp in Northeastern Syria, fueling fears that the Turkish attack on the Kurdish-controlled region could enable the resurgence of ISIS.
The Kurdish-led Syrian Defense Forces (SDF) have warned that they will be unable to watch over a network of ISIS prisons that hold as many as 100,000 suspected ISIS members and their wives in the region, as they focus on defending themselves against Turkish President Recep Erdogan’s surprise massacre.
“The protection of ISIS prisons will not remain our priority,” an SDF commander said during a press conference on Saturday, as per the Guardian. “The defense of our soil will be prioritized if [the] Turkish military continues its attacks.”
Erdogan claims to have launched the attack against the SDF to clear Syria’s northern territory, which borders Turkey, to create a “safe zone” to send some of the 3.6 million Syrian refugees currently in the country. Turkey has a long, violent relationship with the Kurds, the largest ethnic group without their own state in the world, leading critics to view Erdogan’s most recent massacre as an attempted ethnic cleansing.
US Defense Secretary Mark Esper said the Turkish attack, which has targeted unarmed victims like Kurdish political leader Hevrin Khalaf, “gets worse by the hour.”
The Guardian’s Mark Townsend notes that ISIS’s leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, has “urged his followers to start freeing jihadists and their wives and children from detention camps in Iraq and Syria.” Kurdish intelligence found that ISIS sleeper cells are targeting the prisons to liberate fighters.
As Citizen Truth’s Rami Almeghari explained last Thursday, Trump’s compliance with the Turkish massacre has drawn widespread condemnation:
“On a phone call with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan over the weekend, US President Trump said US forces would effectively withdraw from northeastern Syria and not come to the aid of its Kurdish allies in the case of a Turkish offensive in the region,” wrote Almeghari. “The move by Trump angered members of his own Republican Party and drew accusations that the US was abandoning its allies.”
Sen. Lindsey Graham, who has been criticized for his sycophantic behavior towards the president, issued a rare rebuke of the Trump administration in response to the news:
“Pray for our Kurdish allies who have been shamelessly abandoned by the Trump Administration. This move ensures the reemergence of ISIS,” Graham said last week. “Will lead effort in Congress to make Erdogan pay a heavy price. I urge President Trump to change course while there is still time by going back to the safe zone concept that was working.”
On Sunday, Graham reversed his tone in anticipation of potential US-enforced sanctions on Turkey after international outcry.
Sen. Marco Rubio, who went from calling Trump an “erratic liar” and a “con artist” who was trying to perform “the biggest scam in American political history,” to becoming one of his most avid supporters, similarly gave a rare condemnation of the president’s decision:
“As Turkish backed fighters approach a Kurdish held city in #Syria: -700 #ISIS supporters escaped -Erdogan’s forces are filming themselves beheading Kurds – U.S. troops are at serious risk of being cut off & of coming under attack by enemy fighters.”
The president’s betrayal of the Kurds continues a long tradition in American foreign policy. Some critics argue Trump’s sellout is particularly egregious, however, because it is likely motivated by his Turkish business interests.
“I have a little conflict of interest ’cause I have a major, major building in Istanbul,” Trump told Bannon during a Breitbart radio show in 2015. “It’s a tremendously successful job. It’s called Trump Towers—two towers, instead of one, not the usual one, it’s two.”
As Mother Jones’ Russ Choma explained last week, Erdogan has previously manipulated Trump by threatening to remove his name from the buildings, which have earned the president millions in royalties since he launched his election in 2015.
“Trump’s decision doesn’t honor the American people,” Ronya Kilic, a student of Kurdish descent living in Stockholm, told Citizen Truth. “Unfortunately innocent people will pay the price and one can only hope he will change his position.”