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Attack on Kurds will 'devastate Turkey economically,' but Kurds should not 'provoke': Trump tweets

Lack of clarity on policy
US President Donald Trump at the G20 Summit in Buenos Aires on December 01, 2018. AFP
2019-01-14

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SULAIMANI — US President Donald Trump tweeted Sunday night (January 13) that Turkey would be economically devastated if they “hit the Kurds,” but that the Kurds should not provoke Turkey either.

Trump is currently locked in a standoff with congressional Democrats over funding for a wall on the US-Mexico border that has precipitated the longest government shutdown in US history and has spent much of that time tweeting on a variety of topics.

In the span of two tweets, he addressed his administration’s plans to withdraw from Syria:

“Starting the long overdue pullout from Syria while hitting the little remaining ISIS territorial caliphate hard, and from many directions. Will attack again from existing nearby base if it reforms. Will devastate Turkey economically if they hit Kurds. Create 20 mile safe zone....”

“....Likewise, do not want the Kurds to provoke Turkey. Russia, Iran and Syria have been the biggest beneficiaries of the long term U.S. policy of destroying ISIS in Syria - natural enemies. We also benefit but it is now time to bring our troops back home. Stop the ENDLESS WARS!”

It was unclear what precisely he meant by creating a “20 mile safe zone” or who would enforce it should one be created.

Trump has used tariff threats in the past in an attempt to get Turkey to negotiate on issues in the past, but it was not clear whether he was warning that he may take economic action against Ankara should they attack Kurdish groups in Syria or whether the economic devastation would be an organic consequence of doing so.

Moreover, the location of the “existing base nearby” that would be used to hit Islamic State (ISIS) if it reemerged was not specified.

The US has a base in southern Syria at Al Tanf. US National Security Adviser John Bolton told Turkish officials last week that at this point the United States had no plans to abandon the base.

It also has troops stationed in neighboring Iraq, Jordan, Turkey, and a number of countries in the Gulf.

The presence of US bases in Iraq has recently been criticized by politicians there.

In response to Trump's tweets, Ibrahim Kalin said that it was a mistake for the US to equate the Kurds and the YPG.

"It is a fatal mistake to equate Syrian Kurds with the PKK, which is on the US terrorists list, and its Syria branch PYD/YPG. Turkey fights against terrorists, not Kurds. We will protect Kurds and other Syrians against all terrorist threats," tweeted.

He also said on Twitter that Turkey considered the YPG to be a terrorist group and that it would continue to fight terrorists.

"Terrorists can’t be your partners & allies. Turkey expects the US to honor our strategic partnership and doesn’t want it to be shadowed by terrorist propaganda. There is no difference between DAESH, PKK, PYD and YPG. We will continue to fight against them all."

Trump’s decision to withdraw troops has been clouded by mixed messages from Washington since it was abruptly announced last month, catching off guard allies including the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, according to Reuters.

On Sunday, an SDF spokesperson said that Islamic State militants are “living their final moments” in the last enclave in Hajin in eastern Syria. The the UN Refugee Agency has expressed its deep concern about reports of increasing civilian casualties and displacement in areas around Hajin.

The US-led coalition said on Friday it had started the pullout process, but officials later clarified that only equipment, not troops, were being withdrawn.

Turkey views the YPG as an extension of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has waged a 34-year insurgency in Turkey, and aims to crush its foothold in Syria.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Saturday he was optimistic that a “good outcome” could be reached between Turkey and Syrian Kurdish groups, after speaking to the Turkish foreign minister.

(NRT Digital Media)

This story was updated at 8:46 am EBL