In Syrian withdrawal, Trump abandons Israel and the Kurds
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Op-edNow Soleimani can drive straight from Iran to see Nasrallah

In Syrian withdrawal, Trump abandons Israel and the Kurds

As the Kurdish minority faces a possible massacre, the US president could be opening a direct route from Tehran to Beirut

Avi Issacharoff

Avi Issacharoff, The Times of Israel's Middle East analyst, fills the same role for Walla, the leading portal in Israel. He is also a guest commentator on many different radio shows and current affairs programs on television. Until 2012, he was a reporter and commentator on Arab affairs for the Haaretz newspaper. He also lectures on modern Palestinian history at Tel Aviv University, and is currently writing a script for an action-drama series for the Israeli satellite Television "YES." Born in Jerusalem, he graduated cum laude from Ben Gurion University with a B.A. in Middle Eastern studies and then earned his M.A. from Tel Aviv University on the same subject, also cum laude. A fluent Arabic speaker, Avi was the Middle East Affairs correspondent for Israeli Public Radio covering the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the war in Iraq and the Arab countries between the years 2003-2006. Avi directed and edited short documentary films on Israeli television programs dealing with the Middle East. In 2002 he won the "best reporter" award for the "Israel Radio” for his coverage of the second intifada. In 2004, together with Amos Harel, he wrote "The Seventh War - How we won and why we lost the war with the Palestinians." A year later the book won an award from the Institute for Strategic Studies for containing the best research on security affairs in Israel. In 2008, Issacharoff and Harel published their second book, entitled "34 Days - The Story of the Second Lebanon War," which won the same prize.

Iraqi Kurdish security members line up in front of a polling station to vote ahead of parliamentary elections in Arbil, the capital of the Kurdish autonomous region in northern Iraq on May 10, 2018. (AFP Photo/Safin Hamed)
Iraqi Kurdish security members line up in front of a polling station to vote ahead of parliamentary elections in Arbil, the capital of the Kurdish autonomous region in northern Iraq on May 10, 2018. (AFP Photo/Safin Hamed)

Devoted Israeli supporters of US President Donald Trump tend to praise him primarily for his uncompromising policy in the Middle East: He renounced the nuclear agreement with Iran, blocked UN resolutions condemning Israel, and even gave Jerusalem a political safety net for settlement construction.

However, Wednesday’s announcement of the withdrawal of American forces from Syria constitutes one of the most severe blows for Israel in the northern arena.

In one decision, the Trump administration abandoned two allies: Israel and the Kurds.

Transportation Minister Israel Katz told Israel Radio on Thursday morning that the decision represented a tough blow for the Kurds, but that fortunately, “we are not the Kurds.”

Still, the blow is hard enough.

US President Donald Trump in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC, October 10, 2018. (SAUL LOEB/AFP)

The American forces operating in the northeastern region of Syria, especially near​​ Al-Bukamal, bordering Iraq, constituted a final buffer between Iran and the Mediterranean Sea.

Iran has a presence in Iraq and in Lebanon, of course, as well. The US buffer in Al-Bukamal stopped the connection between the two.

Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps commander Gen. Qassem Soleimani, center, attends a meeting with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Revolutionary Guard commanders in Tehran, Iran, September 18, 2016. (Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader via AP)

The departure of US forces foreshadows the construction of a “highway” that will offer a direct route for Iranians and Shiite militias between Tehran and Beirut. As a senior Arab diplomat explained to The Times of Israel, the development will allow Iranian Revolutionary Guards al-Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani to drive straight from Tehran to the offices of Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah in Dahiya, Beirut.

Soleimani is only one example of the potential danger inherent in the decision of the US president, who is admired in Israeli right-wing circles. The new highway will also be available to transport missiles, advanced weapons and Shiite militias.

It is true that Israel has the means to defend itself and will probably act to do so, but the potential for war between Jerusalem and Tehran or between the Jewish state and the Islamic Republic’s proxies will rise to new levels.

Commander-in-chief of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corp, (IRGC) Major General Yahya Rahim Safavi, left, greets Sheikh Naim Qassem, deputy Secretary General of Lebanons Hezbollah, during a religious ceremony in Tehran, Iran, on August 18, 2007. (AP Photo/Hasan Sarbakhshian)

And if anyone expects Russian President Vladimir Putin to do something about it, they are in for a disappointment.

Beyond Israel, it is impossible to ignore the future of the Kurdish region of Syria (and in Turkey as well). The United States has abandoned those who were its most important allies in the war against the Islamic State.

At one point the Kurds were the only force that managed to stop the Islamist terror organization.

After the Iraqi and Syrian armies suffered losses at the hands of Islamic State, the Kurdish YPG forces endured fierce battles, fought until their last drop of blood, and managed to stop the terror organization on a number of fronts (most notably, in the northern Syrian city of Kobani).

It is difficult to find fighters (both male and female) more heroic than the Kurds as they acted in the name of human rights and women’s’ rights. They were heroes, and especially heroines, who sacrificed themselves for humanity.

Trump, who apparently “understands the Middle East,” is abandoning them and betraying them, paving the way not only for an Iranian presence in the region but also for an unprecedented massacre of the Kurds.

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