Update 4: Trump's tweetstorm continues.
In another salvo of sweets sent about 20 minutes after the last round, Trump insists that "I will totally destroy and obliterate the Economy of Turkey (I've done before!)" if Erdogan does anything "off limits" - presumably implying that there will be some punishment if Erdogan attacks the Kurds.
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...— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 7, 2019
....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
The tweets have sent Turkish stocks and the lira to lows of the session.
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Update 3: A US State Department official told the press that the US is "reviewing" its military position in Syria and that the military won't do anything to stop the Turks if they follow through with plans of an incursion. Though the US affirms that it retains control over the airspace above northeastern Turkey.
Meanwhile, President Trump has chimed in with more tweets, insisting that "Russia & China...loved seeing us bogged down, watching over a quagmire, & spending big dollars to do so." It's time to "get out of these ridiculous endless wars" and stop spending money on "people who don't even like the USA."
Just like Trump promised during the campaign, "the endless and ridiculous wars are ENDING!" he insisted. "We will be focused on the big picture...knowing we can always go back & BLAST!"
I was elected on getting out of these ridiculous endless wars, where our great Military functions as a policing operation to the benefit of people who don’t even like the USA. The two most unhappy countries at this move are Russia & China, because they love seeing us bogged.....— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 7, 2019
....down, watching over a quagmire, & spending big dollars to do so. When I took over, our Military was totally depleted. Now it is stronger than ever before. The endless and ridiculous wars are ENDING! We will be focused on the big picture, knowing we can always go back & BLAST!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 7, 2019
In other words: If ISIS comes back, we'll simply nuke them into oblivion.
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Update 2: The NatSec hawks are already coming after President Trump for his decision to allow Turkey carte blanche in Northern Syria. And not just his fellow Republicans.
During an impromptu phone interview with Fox & Friends Monday morning - a show that President Trump rarely misses - Senator Lindsey Graham blasted Trump's plan, particularly his decision to abandon the Kurds to Turkey, warning that any pull back by the US would hasten the revival of ISIS.
Graham said that "the biggest lie" being told by the administration is that ISIS has been "defeated." They're merely lying in wait, Graham warned. And with the US gone from the region, the Kurds will have no choice but to ally with the Assad regime and Iran if they want to survive. Meaning the US will lose an important strategic ally in the region.
He went on, saying the decision is "short-sighted and irresponsible" and that after abandoning the Kurds, "no one will ever trust us again" in the Middle East region. Graham added that he would sponsor a resolution urging Trump to reconsider this decision.
Of course, Graham wasn't the only one to voice his disappointment in Trump. Former Defense Secretary James Mattis infamously resigned late last year over Trump's plan to abruptly withdraw US troops from Syria (the US still has roughly 1,000 troops in the country).
Graham continued his attacks on Twitter.
I don’t know all the details regarding President Trump’s decision in northern Syria. In process of setting up phone call with Secretary Pompeo.— Lindsey Graham (@LindseyGrahamSC) October 7, 2019
If press reports are accurate this is a disaster in the making.
* Ensures ISIS comeback.— Lindsey Graham (@LindseyGrahamSC) October 7, 2019
* Forces Kurds to align with Assad and Iran.
* Destroys Turkey’s relationship with U.S. Congress.
* Will be a stain on America’s honor for abandoning the Kurds.
Also, if this plan goes forward will introduce Senate resolution opposing and asking for reversal of this decision. Expect it will receive strong bipartisan support.— Lindsey Graham (@LindseyGrahamSC) October 7, 2019
Later, Graham said he would seek to suspend Turkey from NATO if it follows through with its plans.
Senator Marco Rubio, another opponent of Trump's from the Republican primary, echoed Graham's criticism, tweeting that "the Trump administration has made a grave mistake that will have implications far beyond Syria."
If reports about US retreat in #Syria are accurate, the Trump administration has made a grave mistake that will have implications far beyond Syria.— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) October 7, 2019
It would confirm #Iran’s view of this administration & embolden then to escalate hostile attacks which in turn could trigger much broader & more dangerous regional war.— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) October 7, 201
UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, another natsec hawk, weighed in, insisting that the US "must always have the backs of our allies."
We must always have the backs of our allies, if we expect them to have our back. The Kurds were instrumental in our successful fight against ISIS in Syria. Leaving them to die is a big mistake. #TurkeyIsNotOurFriend— Nikki Haley (@NikkiHaley) October 7, 2019
At almost the exact same time, Trump's one-time presidential rival, Hillary Clinton, accused him of siding "with authoritarian leaders of Turkey and Russia over our loyal allies and America's own interests."
Let us be clear: The president has sided with authoritarian leaders of Turkey and Russia over our loyal allies and America’s own interests. His decision is a sickening betrayal both of the Kurds and his oath of office.— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) October 7, 2019
The neocons and natsec hawks are proving once again that support for the international security state is and always has been bipartisan.
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Update: In a lengthy twitter thread where President Trump tried to explain his decision for allowing Turkey to essentially take over the US security role in northeastern Syria, Trump said on Monday that the US had lingered in Syria far longer than the Obama administration had promised.
He also offered some insight into his thoughts about abandoning the US's chief regional allies, the Kurds, to face the possibility of massacre by the Turkish military. While the Kurds "fought with us" they were also "paid massive amounts of money and equipment to do so." Trump said he held off their conflict with Turkey for three years, but "it is time for us to get out of these ridiculous Endless Wars, many of them tribal, and bring our soldiers home."
"WE WILL FIGHT WHERE IT IS TO OUR BENEFIT, AND ONLY FIGHT TO WIN," Trump added.
The United States was supposed to be in Syria for 30 days, that was many years ago. We stayed and got deeper and deeper into battle with no aim in sight. When I arrived in Washington, ISIS was running rampant in the area. We quickly defeated 100% of the ISIS Caliphate,.....— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 7, 2019
....including capturing thousands of ISIS fighters, mostly from Europe. But Europe did not want them back, they said you keep them USA! I said “NO, we did you a great favor and now you want us to hold them in U.S. prisons at tremendous cost. They are yours for trials.” They.....— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 7, 2019
.....again said “NO,” thinking, as usual, that the U.S. is always the “sucker,” on NATO, on Trade, on everything. The Kurds fought with us, but were paid massive amounts of money and equipment to do so. They have been fighting Turkey for decades. I held off this fight for....— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 7, 2019
....almost 3 years, but it is time for us to get out of these ridiculous Endless Wars, many of them tribal, and bring our soldiers home. WE WILL FIGHT WHERE IT IS TO OUR BENEFIT, AND ONLY FIGHT TO WIN. Turkey, Europe, Syria, Iran, Iraq, Russia and the Kurds will now have to.....— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 7, 2019
...figure the situation out, and what they want to do with the captured ISIS fighters in their “neighborhood.” They all hate ISIS, have been enemies for years. We are 7000 miles away and will crush ISIS again if they come anywhere near us!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 7, 2019
That's the administration's most comprehensive statement on the decision so far, though we expect many other senior officials will weigh in over the next day.
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In a major policy shift that abandons nearly a decade of American policy in Syria, the White House announced late Sunday night that US forces in northern Syria would step aside to allow a planned Turkish offensive. The decision follows late-night haggling between President Trump and President Erdogan, who had threatened a "land and air" offensive "as soon as today or tomorrow."
In a last-minute phone call yesterday, Erdogan and Trump agreed to meet in Washington next month to discuss Turkey's uneasiness with Washington and its ability to do what is required according to an agreement between the two countries about security in northeastern Syria.
Instead, a few hours later, the Trump administration released the following statement shortly before midnight. The administration reportedly refused to clarify whether the remaining US troops left in Syria would be withdrawn.
Washington said it would also turn over all captured ISIS fighters to Turkey after their home countries refused to take them back.
"Today, President Donald J. Trump spoke with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey by telephone. Turkey will soon be moving forward with its long-planned operation into Northern Syria. The United States Armed Forces will not support or be involved in the operation, and United States forces, having defeated the ISIS territorial "Caliphate," will no longer be in the immediate area.
"The United States Government has pressed France, Germany, and other European nations, from which many captured ISIS fighters came, to take them back, but they did not want them and refused. The United States will not hold them for what could be many years and great cost to the United States taxpayer. Turkey will now be responsible for all ISIS fighters in the area captured ove the past two years in the wake of the defeat of the territorial "Caliphate" by the United States."
As of last month, the US still had 1,000 US troops in northeastern Syria, CNN reports.
Turkey already has substantial military assets positioned along the boarder with Syria, and more troops were seen heading toward the border over the weekend, according to reports in Turkish media.
Unfortunately, Turkey's No. 1 target in the region isn't the remnants of ISIS (which Ankara tacitly enabled by turning a blind eye to foreign soldiers crossing into Syria). Instead, the Turkish operation is intended to destroy the Kurdish militia, the People's Protection Units - or YPG - or at least move them away from the border with Turkey, where Ankara fears they are offering support to domestic Kurdish groups that Erdogan has labeled "terrorists."
This represents a major foreign-policy win for Erdogan. Washington's support for the Kurds as their closest ally on the ground in Syria was the only thing stopping Turkey from moving against the Kurds. Now, Washington has effectively abandoned its long-time ally.
Turkey's primary justification for moving into the region is that Washington hasn't done enough to establish "safe zones" along the Turkey-Syria border. These were intended to be areas jointly patrolled by the US and Turkey. Now, Washington is apparently leaving the project to Ankara.
For a long time, Washington believed that allowing Turkey to attack the Kurds in the region would undermine the battle against ISIS. But now that the caliphate has been stripped of its territorial possessions, the Trump Administration apparently feels like the Kurds have outlived their usefulness.
Never mind that by abandoning the Kurds, Washington is sending a clear message to North Korea, Iran and anyone else hoping to bargain with the US that Washington cannot be trusted to hold up its end of the bargain.
Remember, former Defense Secretary James Mattis resigned late last year over President Trump's plans to pull troops out of Syria (at Erdogan's behest) partly because he felt it would be tantamount to selling out the Kurds.