America threatens to visit economic ruin on Turks
WASHINGTON: Donald Trump warned Turkey yesterday of economic devastation if it attacked Kurdish forces in the wake of the US troop pullout from Syria, while also urging the Kurds not to “provoke” Ankara.
Mr Trump took to Twitter to reveal some of his latest thoughts in the slow drip of information being released by his administration after his surprising December announcement of a troop withdrawal.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is on a whirlwind regional tour to shore up support against Iran and reassure allies amid rising tensions between the US and Turkey over the fate of Washington’s Syrian Kurdish allies in the fight against Islamic State.
Mr Pompeo was to meet Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Riyadh. He said he would seek assurances that the murderers of journalist Jamal Khashoggi would be held “accountable”. US intelligence services and the Senate hold Mohammed responsible for the murder of Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul last October.
Mr Pompeo also sought to reassure Washington’s Kurdish allies in the fight against ISIS, who fear the departure of American troops would allow Turkey to attack them. Turkey had reacted angrily to suggestions Mr Trump’s plan to withdraw troops was conditional on the safety of the US-backed Kurdish fighters, seen by the Turkish government as terrorists.
“Will devastate Turkey economically if they hit Kurds,” Mr Trump tweeted, while pushing for the creation of a 30km safe zone. “Likewise, do not want the Kurds to provoke Turkey.”
US-led operations against ISIS in Syria have been spearheaded on the ground by the Kurdish-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces. Ankara sees the backbone of that alliance, the Kurdish People’s Protection Units, as a terrorist group linked to the Kurdistan Worker’s Party, which has fought a long insurgency against the Turkish state.
On Saturday, more than 600 people were evacuated from the remaining ISIS holdout in eastern Syria, as US-backed fighters prepare for a final assault on the area.
“Starting the long overdue pullout from Syria while hitting the little remaining ISIS territorial caliphate hard, and from many directions. Will attack again from existing nearby base if it reforms,” Mr Trump said.
About 300 SDF combatants had deployed near the village of Sousa in preparations for a final assault on the jihadists.