US President Donald Trump, who recently gave a green light for Turkey to launch operation into northeastern Syria, has threatened to “totally destroy and obliterate” the country’s economy if Ankara takes the planned attack too far, Reuters reported on Monday.
“If Turkey does anything that I … consider to be off-limits, I will totally destroy and obliterate the Economy of Turkey,” the US leader said in a tweet on Monday.
As I have stated strongly before, and just to reiterate, 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!). They must, with Europe and others, watch over…
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 7, 2019
Speaking at the White House later on Monday, the president also told reporters that he had warned Erdogan not to hurt any U.S. service members in the part of Syria that Turkey plans to invade during a phone call between the leaders on Sunday.
“I’ve told Turkey that if they do anything outside what we would think is humane … they could suffer the wrath of an extremely decimated economy. Any of our people get hurt, big trouble,” the US president said.
Trump’s statements came a day after his decision to pull out U.S. forces from northeastern Syria, which drew much criticism by those who accused Trump of leaving the Kurdish-led forces that have long allied with Washington vulnerable to the planned attack.
The US on Monday began pulling troops back, effectively giving Turkey a green light to move into the area, in a move that was denounced by Kurdish-led forces as a “stab in the back”.
Through its long-threatened military operation into northeastern Syria, the Turkish government aims to clear border areas of the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) militia, which the US considers to be a crucial ally in the fight against the Islamic State (ISIS) terror group in Syria.
Ankara deems YPG as a terrorist organization linked to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), an armed militant group has waged a separatist insurgency against the Turkish state since 1984.
Apart from Trump, the Pentagon also released a statement about Turkey’s planned Syria incursion, underlining that they do not “endorse” it.
“The Department of Defense made clear to Turkey – as did the President – that we do not endorse a Turkish operation in Northern Syria. The U.S. Armed Forces will not support, or be involved in any such operation,” Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said.
Carla Gleason, the Department of Defense spokeswoman, revealed that Turkey had been removed from a military mechanism used to coordinate air operations over northern Syria and would not have access to U.S. intelligence and surveillance feeds in the region.
Reuters also quoted a senior State Department official saying that Washington expects Ankara to take responsibility for captive ISIS fighters in northeastern Syria provided that its planned incursion seizes areas where the detained militants are held.
The Turkish lira on Monday slid more than 2% to its lowest level in more than a month against the dollar due to concerns regarding the planned operation into northern Syria and the harsh warnings coming from the US president and other senior officials.
The U.S. relations with Turkey under Trump administration have been stormy, with the president imposing tariffs on Turkish steel and aluminum products last year due to Ankara’s detention of a U.S. pastor supported by his Christian conservative base.