US President Donald Trump has threatened to "destroy" Turkey's economy if, in his view, the country goes too far in the Syria conflict. In the face of the impending Turkish military offensive in northern Syria, Trump tweeted: "If Turkey does anything I consider taboo in my great and incomparable wisdom, I will completely destroy and annihilate the Turkish economy." Trump did not make clear what actions Turkey feared.
The White House had announced on Sunday evening (local time), not to stand in the way of a Turkish offensive in northern Syria. Trump had tweeted that it was time to get out of these "endless ridiculous wars" and "bring our soldiers home." With the announcement to withdraw US troops from northern Syria, he himself had paved the way for the Turkish offensive. Before the troop withdrawal Trump had telephoned according to the White House with the Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
Turkey intends to expel allied Kurdish militia from the border region with the United States and settle Syrian refugees there. The Kurdish-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) confirmed that the withdrawal of US troops from the border region had begun. The SDF were US allies in the fight against IS in Syria. The EU and the German government warned against such an offensive by Turkey. It would impede political efforts such as the recently-announced Syrian Constitutional Committee, it said, would inflict more suffering on civilians and would drive more people to flee.
Get out of "ridiculous, endless wars"
The troop defended Trump later on Twitter with cost reasons. Further support for the rebel groups led by the Kurds, with which the USA would have fought against the terrorist militia IS, would be too expensive, he wrote. "The Kurds fought with us, but they got a lot of money and equipment for it." They fought against Turkey for decades. "Turkey, Europe, Syria, Iran, Iraq, Russia and the Kurds now have to get a grip on the situation." It was time for a US exit, "from these ridiculous, endless wars, many of them tribal wars".
Above all, the US President urged Turkey to guard the captured militants of the terrorist militia "Islamic State" and their relatives. According to estimates by the US military, there are about 10,000 IS fighters in some improvised SDF prisons. Among them, according to the Federal Government, about 40 German fighters and about 70 women with 120 children. Several prisons are located near the border with Turkey. In addition, there are numerous refugee camps in northeastern Syria, with an estimated more than 70,000 people.
Meanwhile, the US Department of Defense warned of potentially "destabilizing consequences" of the planned Turkish operation for the region. The influential US Republican Lindsey Graham announced a bipartisan Senate resolution on sanctions against Turkey in the event of a Turkish "invasion" of northern Syria. If Turkish troops attack Kurdish forces in northern Syria, they will also demand the suspension of Turkey's NATO membership, Graham wrote on Twitter.
Criticism from the US Congress
He hopes and expects that a two-thirds majority in Congress for such a resolution will come about. Such a majority could overrule Trump's possible veto. Earlier, Graham had spoken of an "impulsive decision" by the President. A group of Republican and Democratic congressmen said, "The government's announcement regarding Syria is a misguided and catastrophic blow to our national security interests."
In January Trump threatened Turkey with economic destruction if they attacked the Kurds in Syria. Following further threats from Erdoğan to invade northern Syria, the US offered Turkey assistance in setting up the "security zone" along the border in August. Turkey, however, was dissatisfied with the progress. The Kurdish militia, however, saw the agreements as respected. Among other things, these included the destruction of Kurdish military facilities and the withdrawal of combatants. A deadline set by Erdoğan for the completion of the security zone had expired at the end of September.
Trump's announcements had already had an impact on the Turkish economy in the past. In August last year, the US president decided to double tariffs on steel and aluminum from Turkey. With the announcement of these sanctions, the price of the Turkish lira fell. Monday's latest threat has already pushed the Turkish lira to its lowest level in more than a month.
At that time, in August 2018, the US President wrote on Twitter: "Our relations with Turkey are not good at the moment." The diplomatic dispute between the US and Turkey concerned the arrest of US cleric Andrew Brunson by the Turkish authorities. They accuse Brunson of having supported the coup attempt in the summer of 2016.