Donald Trump on Monday attempted to backpedal after facing a furious backlash from lawmakers following a highly controversial decision to effectively allow Turkey to invade territory controlled by America’s Kurdish allies in Syria.
That decision, conveyed to Recep Tayyip Erdogan during a Sunday phone call, marks a potentially disastrous pivot for America’s Mideast policy.
In addition to countenancing a genocidal rampage by Erdogan and permanently undermining America’s ability to work with local fighters in the region, it opens the door to the Kurds aligning themselves with Bashar al-Assad for protection. That, in turn, strengthens Iran’s hand.
Apparently realizing the move is set to undermine his support among key Republicans on Capitol Hill at a precarious juncture, Trump went into damage control mode on Twitter.
“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”, a noticeably desperate Trump said, before making the patently ridiculous claim that “the two most unhappy countries at this move are Russia and China, because they love seeing us bogged down, watching over a quagmire, and spending big dollars to do so”.
Russia has, of course, been actively engaged in Syria since September of 2015, and covertly engaged since at least June of that year. There’s no telling how much money Moscow has spent propping up Assad, and there’s a sense in which the Kremlin is largely indifferent to what the US does in northeast Syria. Russia, Iran, Hezbollah and the Syrian army have spent the last four years reestablishing Assad’s control over the parts of the country that actually matter (sorry), and have generally left the Kurds and the Americans to mop up ISIS in the east.
As far as China goes, Beijing doesn’t care one way or another what Trump does or doesn’t do with a relative handful of soldiers in some far-flung outposts on Syria’s border with Turkey.
Trump continued. “The endless and ridiculous wars are ENDING! We will be focused on the big picture, knowing we can always go back & BLAST!”, he shrieked.
Around 15 minutes later, after retweeting a series of stories and accounts that back up his decision, the president tried to put a Band-Aid on this earthquake fissure by reiterating a threat he made in January about decimating Turkey’s economy.
“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”, a delirious Trump threatened, before reminding everyone that he’s “done [it] before!”.
So, just to recap, Trump on Sunday evening sold out America’s only ally on the ground in Syria at the behest of Erdogan. Then, after facing a backlash for that rash decision, threatened to destroy Erdogan’s economy if the invasion that Trump effectively green-lighted produces an adverse result (which it will). He also claimed to possess “great and unmatched wisdom”.
The reference to having “done it before” is an allusion to July and August of 2018 when, in retaliation for the detention of Christian pastor Andrew Brunson, Trump accelerated Turkey’s currency crisis which was already spiraling out of control thanks to Erdogan’s refusal to let the central bank do its job.
All of this complicates an already fraught situation for US lawmakers who are still attempting to sort out exactly what the White House’s position is on Erdogan’s procurement of Russian-made S-400 missile systems. Ankara’s decision to take delivery of the equipment got Turkey expelled from the Pentagon’s F-35 program, but Trump has been reluctant to push for sanctions. Recently, rumors suggested the White House was angling to cement some kind of trade deal with Erdogan that would involve US military equipment.
Trump capped off his real-time “analysis” of the situation on the ground in Syria by demanding that Europe “and others” “watch over” captured ISIS fighters.
“THE USA IS GREAT!”, he concluded.