President Donald Trump on Monday launched a harsh attack on NATO ally Turkey, threatening to destroy its economy if Ankara takes a planned military strike in Syria too far, even though the U.S. leader himself has opened the door for a Turkish incursion.
Trump said he would “totally destroy and obliterate” Turkey’s economy if it took action in Syria that he considered “off limits” following his decision on Sunday to pull 50 American special forces troops from northeastern Syria.
The U.S. withdrawal will leave Kurdish-led forces in Syria that have long allied with Washington vulnerable to a planned incursion by the Turkish military, which brands them, terrorists.
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Trump’s stern words seemed to be aimed at placating critics who accused him of abandoning the Syrian Kurds by pulling out U.S. forces. The decision drew criticism from Democrats and a rare rebuke from some of Trump’s fellow Republicans in Congress, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
“As I have stated strongly before, and just to reiterate, 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 (I’ve done before!)” Trump tweeted.
….the captured ISIS fighters and families. The U.S. has done far more than anyone could have ever expected, including the capture of 100% of the ISIS Caliphate. It is time now for others in the region, some of great wealth, to protect their own territory. THE USA IS GREAT!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 7, 2019
Turkey does not appear “as of now” to have begun its expected incursion into northern Syria, a senior Trump administration official said on Monday.
The Turkish Defence Ministry said on Twitter late on Monday that preparations for a possible military operation into northeastern Syria had been completed.
The Trump administration official, briefing reporters on a conference call, said 50 U.S. troops in the region that Turkey has targeted would be redeployed elsewhere in Syria “where they aren’t in the crossfire.” The United States has about 1,000 troops in Syria.
Speaking later at the White House, Trump said he had told President Tayyip Erdogan in a phone call that Turkey could suffer the “wrath of an extremely decimated economy” if it acted in Syria in a way that was not humane.