Trump thought Erdoğan was “bluffing” about invading Syria, sources claim

Turkey SyriaSenior White House officials close to United States President Donald Trump believed that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was bluffing when he threatened to invade northern Syria, according to sources. For over two years, most of northern Syria has been controlled by American-supported Kurdish militias, who were instrumental in helping Washington defeat the Islamic State. But the growing strength of the Kurdish forces alarmed Turkey, which views Kurdish nationalism as a bigger threat than the Islamic State.

Since 2016, Ankara repeatedly threatened to invade northern Syria and disarm the Kurdish groups, which it sees as terrorist. It had refrained from doing so due to the presence of American troops in the area. However, according to news website Axios, key officials in the Trump White House were convinced that Turkish President Erdoğan would not have his troops invade northern Syria even if the American forces pulled out. In making this claim, the website cites six unnamed sources “with direct knowledge of the situation”, some of whom were allegedly “in the room with the two leaders and had access to their phone calls going back several years.

In one of these phone calls, which took place in 2017, President Erdoğan allegedly informed the US leader of his government’s intention to “move in to take care of the Kurdish threat” in northern Syria. But President Trump cautioned him about making such a daring move. He reminded the Turkish leader that, by invading northern Syria, Turkey would become responsible for the tens of thousands of Islamic State supporters and their families who are kept in detention camps. Ankara would also face mass international condemnation and possible sanctions from the United States and Europe. Moreover, the US-trained and -supplied Kurdish forces would arguably create a military quagmire for Turkish troops in the region. At that point Turkey “would own” the problem and would not be able to “come to [the US] for help”, according to Trump.

The Axios report claims that, until last week, the White House thought that “Erdoğan would never actually go through with his long-threatened Syria invasion”, because doing so would be detrimental to Turkish interests in the region. Based on that conviction, President Trump finally decided to call Erdoğan’s bluff by pulling American Special Forces troops out of northern Syria, in the belief that Tukey’s response would amount to nothing further than a few airstrikes and small-scale cross-border incursions. That belief was behind the White House’s surprise decision to suddenly pull its troops from northern Syria, according to Axios’ sources.

The report did not mention whether the US Intelligence Community’s reports to the White House concurred with the US President’s conviction that Turkey would not invade northern Syria even in the absence of US troops. The question is, in other words, did Trump made up his mind about Erdoğan’s intentions to invade northern Syria because, or despite the conclusions of his own Intelligence Community?

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 15 October 2019 | Permalink

2 Responses to Trump thought Erdoğan was “bluffing” about invading Syria, sources claim

  1. Pete says:

    It seems Trump’s White House loyalists are covering for their boss on the downsides of his decision. Meanwhile Trump has secured the “I pulled our boys out of Syria” election slogan. Trump’s disdain for the “swamp” – or perhaps weighing up the pros and cons – seemed to have
    inclined him to reject US intelligence, Defense and State Department advice.

    Turkey has had a long history of crossing borders to eliminate or push back Kurds. US intelligence probably pointed to Turkey’s history of ground incursions eg. and airstrikes eg. into neighbouring “Kurdish territory” in Iraq.

  2. Joe Hagler says:

    Why does this even matter? There is no loyalty in the Middle East if history is any guide. They use Religion to control the masses, and proxies to take the heat off of themselves. The Middle East Leaders and their Religion have mastered: Lying, Cheating, Stealing, & corruption to an art form. USA owes nobody, and Trump is right in getting us out of the madness. Let Turkey have it, it’s their back yard… Soon, the USA will have to deal with same in Mexico and the Narco Traffickers… The only half way decent government in the Middle East is Israel. They too must learn it is time to stand on their own, they have the ability, and determination. We can support them in many ways with out American blood… It’s way past time to let Europe do something for a change, or even China. We, the American public need to worry about ourselves, and let the chips fall where they may. Trump didn’t create this mess, and he shouldn’t be held responsible for doing as he said he would do along…

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