Trump’s con­fus­ing moves raise ques­tions about Turkey, Syria


WASH­ING­TON — A day af­ter Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump threat­ened to “ruin the econ­omy of Turkey” if it goes too far with a planned in­va­sion of north­ern Syria, he an­nounced on Tues­day that he’s in­vited Turk­ish Pres­i­dent Re­cep Tayyip Er­do­gan to the White House next month.

North­ern Syria is home to Kur­dish-led forces that have been Amer­ica’s ally in fight­ing the Is­lamic State for nearly four years.

Er­do­gan, how­ever, sees the Kurds as ter­ror­ists and a threat along Turkey’s south­ern bor­der. With Er­do­gan seem­ingly in­tent on launch­ing an in­cur­sion into that swath of north­ern Syria, Trump on Mon­day moved be­tween 50 and 100 U.S. forces out of the area to other lo­ca­tions in the coun­try.

Trump’s de­ci­sion was roundly crit­i­cized by some of the pres­i­dent’s staunch­est Repub­li­can al­lies in Congress and Democrats. They said pulling the U.S. forces back es­sen­tially gives Turkey room to go af­ter the Kurds. Armed by the U.S. and backed by Amer­i­can troops and fire­power, the Kur­dish-led forces put an end to IS’ ter­ri­to­rial hold in the re­gion — at the cost of thou­sands of Kurds killed in years of fight­ing.

Trump has boasted about U.S. suc­cess in de­feat­ing IS, but his crit­ics now ac­cuse Trump of aban­don­ing a U.S. ally, set­ting the Kurds up to be killed. They also worry that if the Kurds end up fight­ing against Turk­ish forces, they won’t be able to guard de­ten­tion cen­tres in Syria that house cap­tured IS fight­ers.

“If Turkey does any­thing that I, in my great and un­matched wis­dom, con­sider to be off lim­its, I will to­tally de­stroy and oblit­er­ate the Econ­omy of Turkey,” Trump threat­ened on Mon­day.

On Tues­day, Trump sent tweets say­ing Er­do­gan will visit Wash­ing­ton on Nov. 13 and de­fend­ing Ankara as a big trad­ing part­ner of the U.S., say­ing it sup­plies steel for F-35 fighter jets.

In fact, the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion re­moved Turkey from the F-35 pro­gram last sum­mer be­cause the Turks re­fused to can­cel the pur­chase of a Rus­sian air de­fence sys­tem that is in­com­pat­i­ble with NATO forces. As part of that process, the U.S. will stop us­ing any Turk­ish sup­plies and parts by March 2020.

“We may be in the process of leav­ing Syria, but in no way have we Aban­doned the Kurds, who are spe­cial peo­ple and won­der­ful fight­ers,” Trump tweeted. “Like­wise our re­la­tion­ship with Turkey, a NATO and Trad­ing part­ner, has been very good.

“Turkey al­ready has a large Kur­dish pop­u­la­tion and fully un­der­stands that while we only had 50 sol­diers re­main­ing in that sec­tion of Syria, and they have been re­moved, any un­forced or un­nec­es­sary fight­ing by Turkey will be dev­as­tat­ing to their econ­omy and to their very frag­ile cur­rency. We are help­ing the Kurds fi­nan­cially/weapons!”

Turkey’s vice-pres­i­dent says his coun­try won’t bow to threats in an ap­par­ent re­sponse to Trump’s warn­ing to Ankara about the scope of its planned mil­i­tary in­cur­sion into Syria.

Fuat Ok­tay said in a speech on Tues­day that Turkey is in­tent on com­bat­ing Syr­ian Kur­dish fight­ers across its bor­der in Syria and on cre­at­ing a zone that would al­low Turkey to re­set­tle Syr­ian refugees there.

“Where Turkey’s se­cu­rity is con­cerned, we de­ter­mine our own path but we set our own lim­its,” Ok­tay said.


Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump has in­vited Turk­ish Pres­i­dent Re­cep Tayyip Er­do­gan to the White House next month, while threat­en­ing Turkey with sanc­tions if it moves mil­i­tary into north­ern Syria.

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