Trump threatens to ‘devastate Turkey economically’ if it attacks Kurds amid US withdrawal from Syria
Donald Trump has warned its NATO ally to beware of the devastative wrath of US economic pressure if Turkey dares to attack the Kurdish allies America is leaving behind in its “long overdue” pull-out of troops from Syria.
The US military, Trump promised, will still use an “existing nearby base,” apparently in Iraq, to attack the Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) militants if the terrorist organization re-emerges in Syria. Using his typical mode of communication to reaffirm the withdrawal of American troops from the ground, the US president warned Ankara against seeing this as an opportunity to stage any military campaign against Syrian Kurds.
“Will devastate Turkey economically if they hit Kurds,” Trump tweeted, urging Ankara to create a “20-mile safe zone.”
At the same time, Trump urged the Kurd-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which the US trained and armed for years, not to “provoke” Turkey.
In an apparent gesture to save face, following a questionable outcome of four years of uninvited American presence in Syria and an abrupt withdrawal, Trump has once-again credited the US military for destroying IS, disregarding the fact that most of the country was liberated from terrorists by the Syrian army, with the help of the Russian military.
“Russia, Iran and Syria have been the biggest beneficiaries of the long term US policy of destroying ISIS in Syria – natural enemies. We also benefit but it is now time to bring our troops back home. Stop the ENDLESS WARS!” Trump tweeted.
Trump made the decision to withdraw some 2,000 American troops from Syria last month, amid consultations with the Turkish military over their planned operations in Syria. National Security Advisor John Bolton even said that US forces will not leave Syria until Turkey guarantees the safety of the US-backed Kurdish militias.
Turkey, however, remains firmly committed to removing what they call a Kurdish “terrorist” threat coming from the Euphrates River valley, and is actively preparing for a possible cross-border operation. “Our preparation continues intensely,” the Turkish defense minister said Friday.
“We have no problems with our Kurdish brothers, Arab brothers in Syria, Turkmens and other ethnic and religious groups. Our only targets are terrorists Daesh and PKK/YPG,” Hulusi Akar added. Ankara sees the YPG Kurdish fighting units of the SDF as an extension of the outlawed Kurdish PKK movement that for decades has waged an insurgency inside Turkey.
American-Turkish relations are far from tranquil and have frayed in the years following the July 2016 coup attempt against Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, which Ankara believes was masterminded by Fethullah Gulen, who is living in exile in Pennsylvania. Washington and Ankara also sparred over the fate of American Presbyterian minister Andrew Brunson, who was convicted in Turkey of aiding terrorism, and who Ankara was forced to extradite after Trump exerted unprecedented economic pressure.
The bilateral relations have been further aggravated by US threats to halt the transfer of military tech to its NATO ally, including the fifth generation F-35 stealth fighter jets, and even to impose sanctions over Turkey’s commitment to purchase Russian S-400 air defense systems, a diversification of weapons suppliers that enhances its national security.