“Erdogan’s decision to invade northern Syria on October 9 has had disastrous consequences for US national security, has led to deep divisions in the NATO alliance, and caused a humanitarian crisis on the ground”, a letter from lawmakers led by House Foreign Affairs committee chairman Eliot Engel reads.
As you can imagine, Congress isn’t particularly enamored with the idea of Recep Tayyip Erdogan visiting the White House this week, just a month on from Turkey’s bloody, cross-border incursion into northern Syria.
The offensive, green-lighted by Donald Trump during an October 6 phone call with the Turkish autocrat, cost the lives of hundreds of America’s former Kurdish allies, left as many as 250,000 people displaced and led to the escape of an unknown number of ISIS fighters and sympathizers.
Trump attempted to clean up the mess he helped create by briefly slapping sanctions on Turkey, but he lifted them around a week later citing a farcical “ceasefire” that effectively ceded Kurdish territory to Erdogan, and forced the Kurds to strike a devil’s bargain with Bashar al-Assad. Erdogan eventually struck a deal with Vladimir Putin which facilitated the removal of Kurdish units from the area west of the initial incursion.
All in all, it was an embarrassing spectacle for the US, which is ultimately keeping hundreds of troops in the country anyway in order to, among other things, safeguard oil fields Trump has effectively claimed.
Congress subsequently forged ahead with its own sanctions push (see the linked post above).
Through it all, Erdogan has remained not just recalcitrant, but wholly defiant, right down to his insistence on sticking with the Russian-made S-400 missile systems he took delivery of over the summer. His procurement of the equipment put Ankara at odds with US lawmakers even before the Syria debacle.
Somehow, Trump still thinks Erdogan’s Washington visit is advisable.
“Given this situation, we believe that now is a particularly inappropriate time for President Erdogan to visit the United States”, Engel and other lawmakers wrote to the White House on Monday.
Earlier, Liz Cheney asked Mike Pompeo to prevent a handful of Erdogan’s security personnel from entering the country. You might recall that in 2017, some of the Turkish president’s entourage beat US citizens protesting in front of the Turkish ambassador’s residence.
And it wasn’t just that episode. “Newly revealed State Department memos show the two-day visit in 2017 was filled with other troubling antics and discord”, the Washington Post writes, noting that “D.C. police and federal officers who were supposed to be helping protect a visiting head of state were instead entangled with his security forces from the moment the delegation’s two planes touched down at Joint Base Andrews”. Ultimately, “several US officers and federal agents were hurt” over the course of the Turkish strongman’s last visit.
In her letter to Pompeo, Cheney asked for assurances that nobody involved in that incident “will be allowed into the United States again this week”. If they are caught in the country, Cheney wants them expelled.
Suffice to say it’s unlikely that Trump will cancel the visit, which means you can look forward to protests and more shenanigans come Wednesday.