Letter to the Editor: Experiences in the Middle East

Middle East USA World

I agree with President Trump’s decision to pull troops from northern Syria to save their lives from endless wars there not only because we’re allied with Turkey in NATO (the U.S. has a major air force base there), but also because of my personal insight working as a geologist engineer over a span of several years in Turkey, Syria and Iraq and getting to know the people there.

I came to admire the Turkish Muslims both in our Ankara office and in southeast Turkey in 1967 where my employer, Royal Dutch Shell, had several drilling rigs working because these Turks seemed tolerant of Christians and Jews. But at times, Syrian Kurds, now listed at PKK terrorists, would cross the Turkish border and attack our drilling rigs, kidnap Turks and steal our equipment.

But eastern non-PKK Kurds in northeast Iran’s semi-autonomous area and Iraq muslims both in Baghdad and Kirkuk, northeast Iraq, where I also worked in 1968, also seemed tolerant of Christians and Jews, and they were respectful of me as an American helping them.

But in 1988, while working for OXY to consult with Syrians in Damascus and a longer time in northeast Syria living in their oil field camp, I worked well with Arabs but not so well with Kurds there. The camp was very near the common boundaries the Iraq, Syria and Turkey. The Syrian Arabs seemed tolerant, but Kurd muslims not so much, as I also toured Kurdish villages to know them. 

So it goes today as I read about endless strife there. That’s why President Trump made a correct choice. Turkey has a right to protect its borders. While my insight is decades old, the basic dynamic there hasn’t changed for centuries.

Calvin Parker, Bakersfield

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