During Wednesday’s “friendly people only” joint press conference with his incorrigible Turkish counterpart, Donald Trump raised more than a few eyebrows when he declared that in his estimation, Recep Tayyip Erdogan has a “great relationship with the Kurds”.
Erdogan made a feeble attempt to follow Trump’s lead by differentiating between “terrorists” and Kurds more generally, but the two leaders’ remarks fell on deaf ears. Erdogan’s animosity (some would call it “bloodlust”) towards the Kurds is the stuff of legend and Trump’s decision to abandon America’s Kurdish allies in northeastern Syria last month will go down as one of the more shameful betrayals in recent military history.
“A lot of that is definition – what’s your definition of the various groups within the Kurds?”, Trump asked nobody in particular on Wednesday.
As it turns out, Erdogan actually played Trump an anti-Kurd propaganda video in the Oval Office, just prior to the press conference.
“[The] meeting took a dark turn when Erdogan pulled out his iPad and made the group watch a propaganda video that depicted Kurds as terrorists”, Axios says, citing three sources familiar with the meeting and adding that “Erdogan apparently thought he could sway [US lawmakers] by forcing them to watch a clunky propaganda film [but] the senators took turns pushing back, while Trump watched, intervening occasionally to play traffic cop”.
If that sounds ridiculous to you, that’s because it is. As a reminder, lawmakers delivered a bipartisan rebuke of Ankara’s actions in Syria late last month and this week asked Trump to rescind Erdogan’s invitation to Washington, citing Turkey’s bloody cross-border incursion.
Apparently, Erdogan got into an argument with Lindsey Graham, who wasn’t amused by the video.
“Well, do you want me to go get the Kurds to make one about what you’ve done?”, Graham asked Erdogan.
As you can imagine, that didn’t go over well with the Turkish autocrat. Axios says the two men “got into a heated back-and-forth” centered around Turkey’s offensive, which Graham lambasted in the harshest terms imaginable last month, marking the most serious clash between Trump and his staunchest Senate ally to date. Erdogan didn’t appreciate Graham using the word “invasion”, a source said.
Graham also suggested Erdogan hasn’t been particularly helpful in the fight against ISIS. There are long-standing rumors about alleged back-door dealings between Ankara and the militants, something Russia exploited for propaganda purposes in December of 2015 following the downing of a Russian warplane on the Syrian-Turkish border.
Graham confirmed the spat to Axios. “The Turkish narrative that they have done more to destroy ISIS, I rejected forcefully, and I let Turkey know that 10,000 SDF fighters, mostly Kurds, suffered, died or injured, in the fight against ISIS, and America will not forget that and will not abandon them”, Lindsey said.
During the press conference on Wednesday, Trump took a question from a Turkish “reporter” who appeared to have been rehearsed. She derided Barack Obama and moved quickly to detail terrorist acts by the PKK.
Last month, when Congress was pressing the White House on the situation in Syria, Trump told Twitter that “Anyone who wants to assist Syria in protecting the Kurds is good with me, whether it is Russia, China, or Napoleon Bonaparte”.
Suffice to say Napoleon never came to the YPG’s aid.
Erdogan was allowed to carry out a mini-genocide, complete with war crimes largely unimpeded for the better part of two weeks.