Recep Tayyip Erdogan has “neutralized” a total of 228 people in “Operation Peace Spring”, Anadolu Agency said late Thursday.
The cross-border military incursion in Northern Syria is now officially a bloodbath, and Donald Trump is deservedly getting the blame. The White House’s snap decision to pull US forces away from border positions held by America’s Kurdish allies allowed the Turkish military to strike with impunity.
Realizing his blunder, Trump is in full-on damage control mode. Republicans on the Hill recoiled at Erdogan’s offensive and the timing could not possibly be worse. Public support for impeachment is rising and all that stands between “President Trump” being demoted to “citizen Trump” is the GOP.
“Now Turkey is attacking the Kurds”, Trump said on Thursday afternoon, as though he had no idea why this is happening.
“We have one of three choices: Send in thousands of troops and win Militarily, hit Turkey very hard Financially and with Sanctions, or mediate a deal between Turkey and the Kurds!”, he went on to shout, in a tweet.
That’s pretty bizarre. After all, just 50 troops (that’s fifty) were sufficient to prevent this massacre. Simply having those four-dozen special operators embedded with the YPG had kept Erdogan at bay. Now, Trump seems to be suggesting that in order to stop the massacre, one option is to send in “thousands” of soldiers and “win militarily”, although it’s not even clear who the US would be fighting in that scenario. The Turks? After Trump just told them they could invade?
And no, sending “thousands” of troops into Syria isn’t “one option”, because Bashar al-Assad, having largely prevailed in the nine-year-old conflict, wouldn’t allow it, and neither would Russia. Letting a small contingent of US forces operate on the other side of the country is one thing, but it’s unfathomable that Assad, Hezbollah and Russia would countenance a massive US troop buildup in the northeast. Damascus would sooner take matters into its own hands and strike a protection deal with the Kurds in exchange for lost autonomy whenever things finally get back to some semblance of “normal” in the country (probably at least five years away).
On the ground, tens of thousands have been displaced already by the Turkish assault.
“The SDF said Turkish air strikes and shelling had killed nine civilians [and] in an apparent retaliation by Kurdish-led forces, six people including a 9-month-old baby were killed by mortar and rocket fire into Turkish border towns”, Reuters says, citing the SDF and officials in southeastern Turkey. 64,000 people have fled border towns. Ras al-Ain and Darbasiya “have become largely deserted”, Reuters went on to write Thursday.
The State department said the US would act (it didn’t specify how) if Turkey’s operation becomes “inhumane and disproportionate”, where that would entail “ethnic cleansing, indiscriminate artillery, air and other fires directed at civilian population”.
“That’s what we’re looking at right now, we haven’t seen significant examples of that so far”, Trump officials said.
Pressed by reporters on the violence that he quite literally allowed to happen, Trump suggested that the threat of economic sanctions might compel Erdogan to “take it a little bit easy on [the Kurds]”.
Clearly, the US president has no conception whatsoever of what, exactly, he has done.
But lawmakers do. 29 House GOP’ers on Thursday said they would introduce legislation to sanction Turkey for the attacks. They would join the Senate in calling for action.
Among those in the House supporting a rapid response: Kevin McCarthy, Steve Scalise and Liz Cheney. Those are not people Trump can afford to lose.
“President Erdogan and his regime must face serious consequences for mercilessly attacking our Kurdish allies in northern Syria”, Cheney said.
Ankara is confident that Trump will succeed in blocking any such sanctions. “If there is any measure taken against us, we will retaliate and respond in kind”, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said. “Nothing will come of these sanctions”.