Following the Kurdistan Region’s defeat of the Islamic State militant group (ISIS), we moved quickly to secure our own rights in an independence referendum last month. We seized the opportunity to solidify our role as a stable partner for peace for America and the rest of the world. Yet in a tragic turn of events, our future is now gravely threatened by aggression from our neighbors—and the world’s indifference to our fate.
If we lose so does America and the free world and all is not well on the front line we hold dividing civilization from the savagery of radical Islamic terrorism.
Following our vote for independence, Iraqi and regional backlash escalated with closure of our airspace, an end to financial transactions and arrest warrants for our officials. Emboldened by the total lack of international response, Iraq and Iran’s aggression culminated with an invasion of our territory by the Iraqi Army and their Iranian-backed militant counterparts. These militants include terror-designated groups such as Hezbollah and the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC).
These attacks on all fronts, from Sinjar to Kirkuk to Khanaqin, took us by surprise. It was not a complete surprise to the United States, however, which knew the attack was imminent but failed to provide us with a warning or apply adequate pressure to prevent it. Our weakness was partly due to some of our political and military leaders having made a desperate deal with Iran and Iraq, and who retreated their forces without a fight. Had the West provided us with sufficient support, we would not be as susceptible to such lethal manipulation by our common enemies.
When President Donald J. Trump was elected, Kurds were buoyed with new hope. Initially positive signals from his administration prompted babies and businesses to be named after America’s new president.
This support began to wane with President Trump’s opposition to our independence referendum and then turned to outrage when the United States stood by as our lines collapsed under the Iraqi assault. America's policy of not having a policy is all the more confusing, as President Trump only one week ago committed to decertifying the Iran deal and listing the IRGC as a terror organization.
Ironically, the IRGC’s response to this new designation was to use state-of-the-art American weaponry, including M1 Abrams tanks, to attack a key ally—us. President Trump stated that he cannot “take sides,” but allowing your weapons to fall into the hands of terrorists and then giving them free reign to attempt a genocide on our people is certainly far from neutrality.
As these militants burn and tread on America’s flag, invade with American weapons, and behead our Peshmerga, there are crickets. When a football player takes a knee, there is pandemonium.
Comparing the international outrage over our referendum to their deafening silence as we are now attacked by terrorists in revenge, we wonder who will be their partner in destroying the latest monster created by this fatally-flawed foreign policy.
Fortunately, in the U.S. Congress, we have a number of prominent allies on both sides of the aisle, from Rep. Trent Franks to Sen. Chuck Schumer. We just don’t understand why President Trump decided to bet on Iranian-controlled Baghdad, and abandon us to our own fate.
The consequences of this policy will have far-reaching ramifications. Though Syria’s Kurds are a separate entity, we can only wonder what they must think as they see our betrayal, and as their immediate usefulness to the coalition wanes. Curiously, the U.S. recently opposed elections in the Syrian Kurdish enclave, but it is hard to envision the U.S. actively opposing elections held by Assad or the Ayatollah. In the name of unity for Syria, would America also tolerate Iranian-supported militants assaulting the Kurds there?
There appears to be no limit to the Western appetite for dumping cash into the lost cause of Iraq, but they never made comparable investments in our forces. Though we appreciate the $22 million in direct aid for our Peshmerga, it's a paltry sum compared to the $500 million debacle America spent training just several Syrian rebels in a failed unit known as “Division 30.”
While ISIS was flush with more than 2,300 captured American Hummers that were then up-armored and laden with explosives—transforming them into deadly suicide bombs—we were never even provided with sufficient munitions to engage these threats. Baghdad would never approve of direct shipments of weapons or equipment to us, and would withhold our share.
On the battlefront, we lost nearly 2,000 Peshmerga and saw more than 9,000 wounded. Our sacrifices only began there.
The Peshmerga were also the first to welcome war-weary refugees to our Region, which included Yazidi victims of sexual enslavement, Christians who faced crucifixion, and homosexuals who are thrown from rooftops. Unlike some parts of the world, we never expressed misgivings about welcoming some two million refugees from Iraq and Syria’s civil wars—despite refugees now comprising a third of our population.
The last week's Iraqi and Iranian attacks on our territory resulted in 180,000 new displaced persons—and counting. We have yet to ever receive our share of national healthcare and humanitarian resources from Baghdad, and we receive mere token support from the international community.
Still, our Peshmerga will always remain committed to fighting terrorism regardless of the political climate. It is simply much more daunting for them to continue this fight on behalf of Western civilization, knowing that the West will allow them to be denied some of the most basic rights they enjoy.
Our allies have sold out the Kurdistan Region, in a last-ditch effort to win over an Iraqi central government that itself was sold out to Iran long ago, and which will never return to the arms of the West. No amount of American tax dollars or lives will ever make Iraq a united, democratic and stable ally for the civilized world—it’s time to give up on that dream, and to believe in ours for a change.
For America and the West to stand for freedom, they have no other choice than to stand with us. Some of these words are tough medicine for our allies, but without a course correction, the next disaster in Iraq is just around the corner.
Maj. Gen. Aziz Weysi Bani is chief commander of the Zerevani Peshmerga forces, and plays a central role in leading Kurdish operations.