TEL AVIV – President Donald Trump threatened Turkey Sunday that he would “devastate it economically” if it attacks Kurdish troops following the U.S.’s withdrawal from Syria.
He also warned the Kurds against “provoking” Ankara.
Trump’s surprise announcement last month ordering the complete pullout of U.S. troops from Syria elicited condemnation from various interested parties including U.S. commanders and Israel, and prompted the resignation of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.
The move was also seen as a betrayal of the Kurdish YPG militia, which was at the forefront of the fight against the Islamic State in northeastern Syria.
U.S. commanders proposed that Kurdish fighters battling the Islamic State terror group be allowed to keep U.S.-supplied weapons, Reuters reported late last month.
Turkey, which considers the YPG a terrorist group, has no desire for them to keep their weapons out of concern they will end up in the hands of Kurdish separatists.
“Will devastate Turkey economically if they hit Kurds,” Trump tweeted, and added that he wished to see the creation of a 20-mile “safe zone.”
“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,” Trump said.
“Russia, Iran and Syria have been the biggest beneficiaries of the long term US 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!”
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….
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 13, 2019
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is on a tour of the region to reassure U.S. allies.
Referencing Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in a speech in Abu Dhabi, Pompeo said the U.S. recognized “the Turkish people’s right and Mr. Erdogan’s right to defend their country from terrorists.”
“We also know that those fighting alongside us for all this time deserve to be protected as well,” he added.
In response to Trump’s threat, Erdogan’s spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said Turkey expected the U.S. to “honor our strategic partnership.”
“Terrorists can’t be your partners and allies,” he added.