Japan Institute for National Fundamentals

Speaking out

Hiroshi Yuasa

【#627】A Day When Japan Could Become “Asian Kurds”

Hiroshi Yuasa / 2019.10.16 (Wed)

October 15, 2019


Hadn’t the Kurds been a U.S. ally that would stand or fall together with U.S. forces in fighting against the cruel Islamic State terrorist group? The recent U.S. decision to withdraw its forces from Syria amounts to the betrayal of Kurds, indicating that the U.S. Trump administration could abandon any important ally with no mercy. For Japan surrounded by nuclear-armed countries in East Asia, the U.S. remains an unrivaled ally. However, a lesson from President Donald Trump’s decision to abandon the Kurds is that Japan should prepare for its greater independence while enhancing the alliance with the U.S. and step up cooperation with multiple countries.

Abandoning a loyal ally

Feeling disgust for massive military spending in the Middle East, President Trump had vowed early on to withdraw U.S. forces from Syria. However, Turkey’s government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had been expected to attack Kurds in northern Syria for the reason of their alleged cooperation with anti-government Kurdish rebels in Turkey if U.S. forces pull out from northern Syria.

Jim Mattis resigned as U.S. defense secretary due to his dispute with President Trump over the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Syria. After firing his National Security Adviser John Bolton also opposing the withdrawal, Trump chose to cut a deal with his Turkish counterpart Erdogan. After negotiations to create a buffer zone in northern Syria, Trump delivered the region to Turkey. Immediately, Turkish forces launched air raids on northern Syria.

For U.S. forces, Kurds had been the most loyal ally during the Iraq War and a reliable friend for anti-IS operations. If nearly 10,000 IS fighters detained by Kurds are released, those from European countries could return home and cause new problems.

Former U.S. President Barack Obama disliked by Trump had once withdrawn from Syria for the reason of cutting costs, inviting the IS’s expansion and Russia’s intervention in Syria. Obama was forced in less than three years to redeploy U.S. forces in Syria. Even if Trump follows in Obama’s footsteps, however, he could no longer get support from Kurds. Two thousand U.S. troops had been stationed in Syria to contain the IS and deter Turkey’s attacks on Kurds to secure global confidence in the U.S. President Trump has given priority to a deal rather than a strategy, destroying the deterrence.

Taiwan could be abandoned next?

Asian U.S. allies now cannot but doubt the Trump administration’s promises and morality. Particularly, Taiwan backed by the U.S. to deter China is worrying that it could meet the same fate as Kurds. Trump might actually cut a deal with Chinese President Xi Jinping to ignore Taiwan.

Given that there is a shade of worry about the Trump administration, Japan as an independent nation should make the Japan-U.S. security treaty more reciprocal to strengthen the bilateral alliance and explore security cooperation with Australia, India and others to prepare for the security risk.

Hiroshi Yuasa is a Planning Committee member and a senior fellow at the Japan Institute for National Fundamentals. He is a columnist for the Sankei Shimbun newspaper.