When Donald Trump suddenly announced that the US was withdrawing from the region of northern Syria that the Kurds claim as their homeland, he was warned that this move would result in Turkey launching an assault on the Kurdish fighters who had been allied with the US, since Turkey views them as allied with the Kurds who live in Turkey and who oppose Turkey’s control of the region. In response to that criticism, Trump issued his infamous “I, in my great and unmatched wisdom” wisdom tweet where he, in his usual bombastic way, that “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!)”
First of all, when did he “totally destroy and obliterate the economy of Turkey” before? Nobody seems to recall this happening though you would think it would have been a major story.
But the bigger news is that Turkey has completely ignored his threat and launched a major air and ground assault on the Kurds. They clearly think that Trump is all bark and no bite, and that the undefined “limits” he supposedly set are non-existent.
Turkish troops have advanced into north-eastern Syria, following airstrikes and artillery barrages aimed at US-backed Kurdish forces who control the region.
The Turkish military confirmed on Wednesday it had “launched the land operation into the east of the Euphrates river” and later said it had hit 181 “militant targets”.
Video footage showed civilians fleeing towns with columns of smoke rising in the background and jet trails visible in the sky.
The Turkish president has raised the rhetorical stakes even further.
The Turkish president has threatened to “open the gates” for Syrian refugees in his country to migrate to Europe if the continent’s countries label Turkey’s military campaign in north-eastern Syria an “occupation”.
Recep Tayyip Erdoğan warned European leaders he would “open the gates and send 3.6 million refugees your way” during a combative speech at a meeting of lawmakers from his Justice and Development (AK) party.
Ankara would continue to imprison the Islamic State detainees in the territory it captures and try to repatriate them to their country of citizenship, Erdoğan said, adding that wives and children would undergo deradicalisation programmes.
Trump and Erdoğan are both authoritarians, neither of whom gives a damn about the Kurds. It may well be that they have arrived at a deal that the only ‘limit’ that Trump has set is that Erdoğan not release the captured ISIS detainees back into the wild. But I would not be surprised if Erdoğan goes ahead and does that since they would seek revenge on the Kurds.
There is no outcome here that looks good for the Kurds. At least we should be thankful that Jared Kushner has not been assigned to solve this problem too, at least so far, because that would undoubtedly make the situation even worse.