Northeast Syria in the spotlight

Syria’s extensive territory lying east of the Euphrates River was a desert when I was in Damascus (1952-56) though it was on the verge of being developed as a major hard wheat producer for Europe. It never happened. Kurds and other minorities settled there while the rest of Syria enfeebled itself with military coups an civil strife. In the last several years we have supported the Kurds out there in a successful effort to rid the area of Islamic terrorists. But the Turks next door hate these Kurds because they hate all Kurds, their hostility being one of the main reasons that peace has eluded the region for so many decades. We seem determined to keep on supporting our Kurdish allies despite Turkish hostility for two reasons: It preserves our presence next to Iran, and it is what Israel wants.

I cannot argue that we should be fighting wars for the Israelis but I do sympathize with continuing to help the Kurds, who are the best fighters in the area and have been very good companions in arms when standing shoulder with our men.

I have been there, when I was posted in Damascus and just after, when I drove across Syria’s Jazirah region in the summer of 1956. My wife and I drove from Damascus to New Delhi then, and you can read my account, just now available in, “The First Forty”. That was long ago but the land hasn’t changed, and the people are about the same.

It certainly is not in our interest to carry Israel’s water for them in the region but I cannot help sympathizing with the Kurds, nor can I help feeling that it’s time to get a little tough with Turkey regarding its thing about them. Turkey has lost many of their best officers in recent purges, and maybe we can call their bluff, if that is what it is, for a while yet.

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