In a statement Sunday evening on Twitter, President Trump announced that
he will establish a 20 mile “safe zone” between Turkey and the
US-backed Syrian Kurds as part of the US pullout from Syria. He also
threatened to “devastate Turkey economically if they hit Kurds.”
Trump appeared to downplay the pullout itself, saying the US would attack ISIS from existing nearby bases if they reform. This presumably refers to US bases being set up on the Iraqi side of the Syrian border.
Overtly threatening Turkey is a new tactic, after a month of puzzling policy proclamations. The evidence, early on, was that President Trump’s pullout was announced immediately after speaking with Turkey’s President Erdogan, amid Erdogan’s open talk of invading Syrian Kurdistan.
After early talk that the US was “betraying” the Kurds, administration officials have previously said that they would ensure the Kurds were protected, without saying how. It seems this is being built around a threat of economic devastation of Turkey, a large US ally and NATO member.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he remains optimistic of a “good outcome,” but also added that the Kurdish YPG “who are not terrorists and fighting alongside us for all this time deserve to be protected.“
This isn’t leaving Erdogan any wiggle room, as he has long maintained the YPG are terrorists under Turkish law, and called the claims that they were helping the US “a huge lie.” With Turkish officials saying they’d invade Syria irrespective of US excuses just days ago, any back-down is going to be very difficult for their government without appearing to surrender to US demands.
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