Oct 7, 2019

Trump threatens to "obliterate" Turkey's economy over Syria red lines

Trump and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at the White House, May 16, 2017. Photo: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images

President Trump defended his decision to withdraw U.S. forces from northern Syria on Twitter Monday, warning that he will "totally destroy and obliterate" Turkey's economy if the country does anything he considers "off limits" — presumably referring to a military offensive against U.S.-backed Kurdish forces in the region.

"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!). They must, with Europe and others, watch over 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!"

Why it matters: The president has faced intense backlash from Republicans who believe he has abandoned a key ally in the fight against the Islamic State. Turkey, however, is a member of NATO, and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Sunday accepted an invitation from Trump to visit the White House next month.

Flashback: In August 2018, Trump raised tariffs on Turkish steel and aluminum after the lira slid dramatically amid a currency crisis, causing even more damage to the economy, per the Washington Post.

  • He also slapped sanctions on Turkey over its detention of American pastor Andrew Brunson, causing a crisis in bilateral relations and further deterioration of the Turkish economy. Brunson was later released in October 2018 and allowed to return to the U.S.

Go deeper: Turkey faces an economic crossroads after Istanbul elections

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Trump in letter to Erdoğan: "Don't be a tough guy"

Trump welcomes Erdoğan to the White House in 2017. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

President Trump attempted to convince Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Oct. 9 to make a deal with the U.S. to end Turkey's military offensive into northern Syria, according to a letter first reported by Fox Business' Trish Regan.

The big picture: The letter, dated the same day as Erdoğan's formal announcement of Turkey's military operation, appears to be one of Trump's first diplomatic responses to a situation that has left U.S.-allied Kurdish forces vulnerable to attack and stoked fears that ISIS militants could escape Kurdish-run prisons. It came three days after the White House announced that the U.S. would withdraw troops from the area, a move that many have condemned as Trump giving Erdoğan a "green light" to launch an attack.

Trump says he'll sanction Turkey "if they don't play by the rules" in Syria

President Trump tweeted Thursday that he'll sanction Turkey — and "hit [it] very hard financially" — if the country doesn't "play by the rules" in northern Syria.

Turkey has been planning to attack the Kurds for a long time. They have been fighting forever. We have no soldiers or Military anywhere near the attack area. I am trying to end the ENDLESS WARS. Talking to both sides. Some want us to send tens of thousands of soldiers to the area and start a new war all over again. Turkey is a member of NATO. Others say STAY OUT, let the Kurds fight their own battles (even with our financial help). I say hit Turkey very hard financially & with sanctions if they don’t play by the rules! I am watching closely.
Go deeperArrowOct 10, 2019

White House insists Trump didn't give Turkey a "green light" in Syria

Turkish-backed Syrian rebels gather near the border. Photo: Nazeer Al-Khatib/AFP via Getty Images

The White House is insisting that President Trump did not offer Turkey a “green light” to slaughter U.S.-backed Kurdish forces in northern Syria last night and that the U.S. wouldn't bear responsibility for any Islamic State resurgence in the area.

Why it matters: Confusion and concern followed the sudden announcement last night — after a call between Trump and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan — that the U.S. would withdraw from the “immediate area” into which Turkish troops are expected to advance.

Go deeperArrowUpdated Oct 8, 2019