Donald Trump has threatened to “totally destroy and obliterate” Turkey’s economy if the country does anything that he does not like in Syria, amid criticism from Republicans over new US policy allowing the Turkish military to take over in the war-torn country.
The statement follows after Mr Trump announced he had decided to pull back US troops from northern Syria, allowing Turkey to go through with a military offensive in the region, a move that even strong backers of the president have blasted as “shortsighted and irresponsible”. The decision appears to leave US-backed Kurdish forces there in jeopardy, which Turkey has labelled as a terrorist organisation.
In apparent response to that criticism, Mr Trump pledged to destroy Turkey’s economy if it steps over the line, and cited what he called his “great and unmatched wisdom” for knowing just where that line is.
“As I have stated strongly before, and just to reiterate, if Turkey does anything that I, in my great and unmatched wisdom, consider to be off limits, I will totally destroy and obliterate the Economy of Turkey (I’ve done before!),” Mr Trump wrote on Twitter Monday morning.
He continued: “They must, with Europe and others, watch over the captured ISIS fighters and families. The US has done far more than anyone could have ever expected, including the capture of 100% of the ISIS Caliphate. It is time now for others in the region, some of great wealth, to protect their own territory. THE USA IS GREAT!”
Mr Trump’s decision to pull troops from Syria sparked backlash from many in Washington, including one of Mr Trump’s most vocal supporters, senator Lindsey Graham. Other prominent supporters of the president, including senator Marco Rubio and former UN ambassador Nikki Haley, also denounced Mr Trump’s decision.
“This impulsive decision by the President has undone all the gains we’ve made, thrown the region into further chaos. Iran is licking their chops. And, if I’m an Isis fighter I’ve got a second lease on life. So to those who think Isis has been defeated you will soon see,” Mr Graham said during an interview on “Fox and Friends”.
The decision to allow Turkey to go ahead with its military offensive in Northern Syria marks at least the second time that Mr Trump has considered pulling back US involvement in the region even further.
Late last year, Mr Trump proposed removing all US forces from Syria, citing success in the battle against Isis. But, he ultimately decided to keep military presence there, amid backlash from the American foreign policy establishment in Washington.
In addition to Mr Graham speaking out, the president’s recent decision has been derided by Ruben Gallego, an Arizona Democrat who served as a Marine in the Iraq war.
“Allowing Turkey to move into northern Syria is one of the most destabilizing moves we can do in the Middle East,” Mr Gallego wrote on Twitter Sunday evening. “The Kurds will never trust America again. They will look for new alliances or independence to protect themselves.”
American backed Kurdish forces were also surprised by the White House’s announcement, with the Syrian Defence Forces — a largely Kurdish militia — releasing a statement claiming they had done their part in working to reudce tensions with Turkey, but that the United States had not held up its end of the bargain.
The statement continued, warning that Turkey’s planned military action could endanger progress made in the wake of the fight against Isis.