American President Trump threatened Turkey on Sunday with tough economic sanctions if it attacks Kurdish forces in Syria after American troops withdraw from the country in the coming months. Trump tweeted ““Will devastate Turkey economically if they hit Kurds” and suggested that there would be a 20-mile safe zone around the group after American forces leave. He added in a follow-up tweet “Likewise, do not want the Kurds to provoke Turkey.”
Trump’s tweet represented a public threat towards Turkey, a NATO ally, over the Kurds and seemed to offer a blanket of protection for the group of American-backed militias that the Turkish government sees as terrorists. Trump’s earlier announcement of a pull-out of American soldiers from Syria within 30 days late last month without guaranteeing safety for the Kurds, who have helped American forces fight the Islamic State, had received sharp international criticism. However, this last tweet has threatened to put an end to the efforts of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s attempt to reach a deal with Turkey to protect the Kurds. Trump’s tweets have added to the confusion over American policy in the region.
Turkey, which has said it is planning an assault on Islamic State and Kurdish forces in north-eastern Syria, contends that the Kurdish fighters in Syria are part of a front for the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) which is leading a Kurdish insurgency in Turkey. Two top administration officials, Defence Secretary Jim Mattis and Brett McGurk, the special presidential envoy to the coalition fighting the Islamic State, resigned, and Trump later agreed to give the military about four months to withdraw. A week ago, the national security adviser, John R. Bolton, said the withdrawal was conditional, insinuating that American troops could potentially be on the ground even longer.
Following Trump’s tweet, the Turkish lira lost 3% in value against the US dollar