- President Donald Trump on Sunday threatened to “economically” devastate Turkey, a NATO ally, but Trump’s own State Department said it had no knowledge of any such plans.
- Trump said Turkey would pay if it attacked the Kurds, an ethnic group that’s proved one of the most effective fighting forces against ISIS but is treated by Turkey as a terrorist group.
- Trump’s Syria policy has been described as incoherent by national-security experts.
President Donald Trump on Sunday threatened to “economically” devastate Turkey, a NATO ally, but Trump’s own State Department said it had no knowledge of any such plans.
“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,” Trump tweeted. “Will devastate Turkey economically if they hit Kurds.”
The Kurds, an ethnic group present in five countries across the Middle East, including Turkey, have proved one of the most effective fighting forces against ISIS, holding their ground and destroying the terrorist group’s grip on its territory in Iraq and Syria.
But Turkey considers the Kurdish People’s Protection Units to be a terrorist group and has pledged to drive it out. International human-rights groups have criticised Turkey’s treatment of the Kurds, and under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan the government has cracked down on all voices of dissent or disagreement on the issue.
Many have expressed worry that without a US presence in the region, the Kurds, who trained and fought alongside the US, would be sitting ducks for Turkey’s airstrikes and ground forces.
The US has sought multiple times to protect the Kurds and gain assurances from Turkey that they would be safe, but it has seemingly failed on that front.
Trump’s national security adviser, John Bolton, travelled to Turkey to try to gain assurances from Erdogan, but Erdogan said that Turkey could not make any compromises and that Bolton had made “a serious mistake.”
Does the State Department know about this? No.
Trump on Sunday offered up economic devastation as a possible lever in the dispute with Turkey, but the State Department,which develops and implements sanctions, the usual tool of economic punishment, knew nothing about Trump’s plans.
Asked what Trump meant by economic devastation for Turkey, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told a reporter they’d have to ask Trump himself.
“We’ve applied sanctions in many places around the world,”Pompeo said. “I assume he’s speaking about those kinds of things, but you’d have to ask him.”
Trump’s plan to pull US troops out of Syria has been met with criticism from both major US political parties as the narrative about it has shifted wildly.
National-security experts on both sides of the aisle have accused Trump of having an incoherent policy on Syria.
The Turkish currency, the lira, slid after Trump’s tweets. In August, the lira dove in value under the threat of US sanctions and because of financial mismanagement.
Turkey remains vulnerable to US sanctions but is a pivotal NATO ally that has accepted millions of Syrian refugees and kept them from travelling farther across Europe.
The US uses a NATO base in Turkey to fight ISIS and holds a stockpile of nuclear weapons there.
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