The US never promised Syria’s Kurds that it would help them build an autonomous state, Defense Secretary Mark Esper has insisted, despite years of hints to the contrary. So much for the birth pangs of that New Middle East…

“Nowhere, at no point in time did we tell the Kurds, we will assist you in establishing an autonomous Kurdish state in Syria, nor would we fight against the longstanding ally Turkey on your behalf,” Esper told reporters on Friday.

“We live up to our obligations, and our obligation, our agreement, our understanding with the Kurds was this: that we would work together to fight in Syria to defeat ISIS,” he explained, referring to the Islamic State (IS/ISIL) terror group. But now that ISIS has been declared dead almost as many times as its late leader Baghdadi, is it game over for the US-Kurdish partnership?

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Esper’s words no doubt came as a shock to anyone expecting a continuation of the Assad-Must-Go policies of the Obama administration, in which it was understood that the Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces would be rewarded for doing their part to overthrow Syrian President Bashar Assad with their own semi-sovereign state à la Iraqi Kurdistan. US media have long sung the praises of “Rojava” as some sort of feminist utopia, but this “brave social experiment” is now imperiled by the Trump administration’s stubborn refusal to continue waging a war it has all but lost in Syria.

The SDF provided an ideal anti-Assad proxy through which the US could occupy resource-rich areas of Syria, an occupation which would otherwise be considered illegal under international law. But when the US began pulling out of northeast Syria back in September, leaving the surprised Kurds at the mercy of Turkish forces that view them as terrorists, the Kurds were forced to beg the same Assad government they had decried as the devil incarnate while the US was still propping them up for protection. They ultimately swallowed their pride and worked out an arrangement with Syrian and Russian forces along the Turkish border, but this was not the deal they thought they’d made with the US.

The Kurds had good reason to expect a state in return for doing the US’ bidding for so many years. Ever since then-Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice rapturously described the fallout from Washington’s destabilization of the region as the “birth pangs of a new Middle East” in 2006, the game plan has been out in the open: “we have to be certain that we’re pushing forward to the new Middle East, not going back to the old Middle East.” Never mind that the residents of that old Middle East might prefer their homelands un-bombed, their borders in the same place, or their family members still alive – when the Pentagon’s redecorating crew shows up in your country, saying “no” isn’t an option. (RT)