This. This quote sums up the lasting effects of Donald Trump’s actions in Syria.
“So they are leaving us for oil? We heard for years that all America cared about was oil, but we didn’t believe it, and we thought the Americans were our friends. Now what do we have left?”
That’s a displaced Kurdish man speaking to journalists. Speaking anonymously to journalists, because he no longer feels safe to be seen talking to Americans.
As The Washington Post reports, crushing levels of fear and dread have settled over Kurdish communities. With Trump bragging about handing over Kurdish territory to Turkey and Russia, Kurds are being forced to evacuate homes where they have lived for generations. They are selling them, when they can sell them at all, for the cost of simply getting away. But it’s not even clear where they can go. The Kurds can’t stay in their traditional territory, can’t cross into Turkey, and are unwelcome in western Syria, which is dominated by the Syrian government forces they’ve been fighting for a decade. Trump had suggested that Kurds conveniently relocate to the oil fields—though he didn’t say doing so would earn them any concern from U.S. forces sent there to protect, and apparently steal, Syrian oil. There is also the minor issue of there being no homes, no water, and no infrastructure in the area.
The only option for many seems to be crowding into towns along the border with Iraq, concentrating in the area that was formerly the heart of ISIS-controlled territory and that is now becoming a new locus of violence and disaffection. As a Kurdish student said when looking at the home she was about to abandon, “There are no good options. None.”
Celebrating his own “big win” in getting Turkey to settle for everything it ever wanted while getting exactly nothing for America’s Kurdish allies, Trump eliminated the mild sanctions he had threatened, but never actually enacted, against Turkey. But on Tuesday, what Trump insists on calling the “do-nothing Democrats” in the House did something. They overwhelmingly passed a much stronger series of sanctions against Turkey, tying those sanctions expressly to the atrocities Turkey has committed in Syria. In fact, as The New York Times reports, it wasn’t just Democrats who voted to impose sanctions, even after Trump had decided that ongoing war crimes constitute no harm, no foul. Two-thirds of House Republicans also joined in voting for the sanctions.
But in a sense, the House still accomplished nothing. Because those sanctions are almost certain to go where over 100 other pieces of legislation have gone before—into Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s round file. McConnell has already made it clear that he does not intend to bring the sanctions up for a vote.
That was not the only Syria-related action in the House. NBC News reports that a bipartisan bill has been introduced that would grant U.S. visas to Syrian Kurds displaced by Trump’s agreement to give their land to Turkey and Russia. The Syrian Partner Protection Act would provide for 4,000 visas a year for the families of Kurdish fighters who worked with U.S. forces in the battle against ISIS, or served as interpreters and translators in other actions.
The bill is likely to gather strong support in the House. Then it will go to the Senate. Then it will go to the trash. And then Moscow Mitch McConnell will brag about being the “grim reaper” of bills, and Trump will complain again about the do-nothing House.
Meanwhile, in Syria, the Kurds have no home.