U.S. President Donald Trump has warned of severe economic consequences if Turkey launches an attack on the Syrian Kurds.
This comes at a time when United States troops are being pulled out of Syria. In the tweets sent on Sunday, Trump also urged the Kurds to avoid provoking Turkey.
American forces have been fighting against the Daesh (ISIS) alongside Kurdish militias better known as Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) for over three years now.
With the exit of the Americans, Kurdish forces are considered vulnerable since Turkey views the Kurdish militia as terrorists. This is because the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK), from which the YPG broke away, has been carrying out an insurgency against Turkey for decades.
The partnership between U.S. forces and the YPG started in 2015, and the U.S. Department of Defense has provided the Kurdish militia with air support, weaponry and training by the Pentagon provide in the fight against ISIS.
Last month, Trump sent shockwaves across the globe when he announced that he would be withdrawing U.S. ground troops stationed in north-east Syria. The decision to pull out the troops estimated to be 2,000 was welcomed in Turkey but viewed as a betrayal of the Syrian Kurds.
After the tweets by Trump, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s spokesperson Ibrahim Kahn criticized the threats. Kahn urged the U.S. to honor its strategic partnership with Turkey, according to CNN:
Turkey expects the US to honor our strategic partnership and doesn’t want it to be shadowed by terrorist propaganda. It is a fatal mistake to equate Syrian Kurds with the PKK, which is on the US terrorists list, and its Syria branch PYD/YPG … Turkey fights against terrorists, not Kurds. We will protect Kurds and other Syrians against all terrorist threats.
Turkey’s foreign minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, also weighed in saying that such sensitive matters should not be addressed via social media.
Though Trump did not specify exactly how he would hurt Turkey’s economy, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo suggested it could be by use of “economic sanctions,” per the BBC. The top U.S. diplomat was touring the Middle East when he made the remarks:
You’ll have to ask the president… We have applied economic sanctions in many places, I assume he is speaking about those kinds of things.
If Trump goes ahead to carry out his threat, this would not be first sanctions against its NATO ally. Last year in August, the United States imposed trade tariffs sanctions on Turkey over the detention of U.S. pastor Andrew Brunson. The pastor was released two months later.
Donald Trump/Recep Tayyip Erdogan Image from Wikimedia Commons