US President Donald Trump has sparked a wave of indignation with the surprise withdrawal of American soldiers from northern Syria. Also and especially from the ranks of Trump's Republicans came unusually heavy criticism. Leading Republicans accused Trump of abandoning the Kurdish militias in northern Syria and risking their lives in the face of an expected military offensive by the Turks. The decision was a big mistake.
Trump defended his attack and at the same time threatened the Turkish government with serious consequences if it acted inhumane. Ankara affirmed its readiness for an operation in northern Syria.
The Kurdish militias were a close ally of the US in the fight against the IS
For a long time, a military offensive Ankara in northern Syria is expected. The White House said on Sunday that American forces would not participate and would no longer be “in the immediate area”. On Monday morning US soldiers then began according to the Kurdish militia-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) with the withdrawal from the area.
The YPG Kurdish militias were close associates of the US in the fight against the Islamic State (IS) militia. They are the target of the Turkish offensive: Turkey sees in the YPG, which controls territories at the border, a terrorist organization.
Leading Republicans openly position themselves against Donald Trump
Former US Ambassador to the United Nations, Republican Nikki Haley, wrote on Twitter on Twitter: “The Kurds have been instrumental in our successful fight against IS in Syria, making them die is a big mistake.”
Senate Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell warned of the danger of a “significant conflict” between Turkey and the Kurdish militia and urged Trump to show American leadership and hold the international coalition against IS. With this rude criticism of the president, McConnell rarely showed unanimous agreement with the Democratic chairman of the other congressional chamber, Nancy Pelosi, who also criticized Trump's decision. The spokeswoman for the House of Representatives accused Trump of “betraying” the US Kurdish allies.
The Republican Senator Marco Rubio wrote on Twitter that the US had abandoned the Kurds, now threatened with the destruction by the Turkish military. The influential Republican Senator and Trump confidante Lindsey Graham spoke in a series of tweets of an impulsive, sad and highly dangerous decision Trumps. The US would stand as an indispensable ally, and it threatens the resurgence of the IS.
Graham announced a bipartisan resolution in the Senate to impose sanctions on Turkey in the event of a Turkish “invasion” of northern Syria. If Turkish troops attack Kurdish forces there, they would also demand the suspension of NATO membership of Turkey. He expected that a two-thirds majority in Congress would come to such a resolution. This could also overrule any veto by Trump.
Trump threatens Turkey with “economic destruction”
NATO did not want to comment on Graham's move on Monday night. However, diplomats pointed out that there is no clause on the exclusion of unwanted members in the treaty. To suspend or terminate Turkish Nato membership against the will of the government in Ankara would therefore be an enormously complex project, which would also require the consent of all other NATO partners in the USA. Nevertheless, Graham's outburst is politically important, as well as the vehement criticism of other Republicans.
Trump defended his attack and at the same time warned Turkey against misconduct in an invasion of Syria. If Turkey does not behave “humanely”, it will have serious economic consequences for the country, Trump said on Monday evening (local time). On Twitter he wrote: “If Turkey does anything that I consider taboo in my great and incomparable wisdom, I will completely destroy and annihilate the Turkish economy.” What exactly he would consider a violation, he left open.
Trump said only 50 US troops had been withdrawn from northern Syria – for their protection. A senior government official said the soldiers were transferred to other military locations in the country. “That means no withdrawal from Syria.” The withdrawal of these forces from the north was by no means the “green light” for the Turks to commit a massacre of the Kurds. Meanwhile, Trump himself made no clear commitment to the protection of the Kurds.
Erdogan wants to relocate refugees to the border
Turkey wants a “security zone” along the border under its sole control. There, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan also wants to accommodate millions of Syrian refugees currently living in Turkey and Europe. Erdogan had said on Saturday that Turkey was close to a military operation in northern Syria. The Turkish foreign ministry said early Tuesday morning that they were ready for the announced military offensive in northern Syria.
When this should begin, remained open. Until Tuesday, Erdogan is in Serbia and it is unlikely that an offensive will begin as long as the president is out of the country. He also wants to discuss developments in the region with US President Trump in the first half of November in Washington. Whether he waived until then on the military mission remained unclear.
It is also unclear what happens to the IS fighters in the hands of the Kurdish militias. Trump again criticized states such as Germany and France, which had refused to take back their citizens among the captured IS fighters. It is now up to Turkey and also European countries to take care of these captured IS fighters and their families. According to US military estimates, there are around 10,000 IS fighters in some improvised SDF prisons.