U.S. President Donald Trump on Monday threatened to “totally destroy and obliterate” the Turkish economy if Turkey takes any action he considered “off-limits” following his decision to withdraw American forces from northeastern Syria.
“As I have stated strongly before, and just to reiterate, if Turkey does anything that I, in my great and unmatched wisdom, consider being off limits I will totally destroy and obliterate the Economy of Turkey (I’ve done before!)” Mr Trump posted on Twitter, referring to sanctions of 2018.
Mr Trump stressed that Turkey and European nations would be responsible for a prison camp in north-east Syria where thousands of Islamic State fighters and families are held.
“It is time now for others in the region, some of great wealth, to protect their own territory.”
The president is facing pushback in Congress over his decision to withdraw U.S. troops from the border area.
The White House had announced that Turkey would move ahead with its “long-planned operation” in Syria and that the U.S. would not be involved.
Similarly, the U.S. Senate will seek to sanction Turkey and even suspend the country from NATO if it invades north-eastern Syria and attacks Kurdish forces, Sen. Lindsey Graham said on Monday, as he lambasted Mr Trump.
“We will introduce bipartisan sanctions against Turkey if they invade Syria and will call for their suspension from NATO if they attack Kurdish forces, who assisted the U.S. in the destruction of the ISIS Caliphate,” Graham, a Republican, said on Twitter.
Mr Graham, a hawk who is often a vocal supporter of Trump, said he was working with Democratic Senator Chris Van Hollen on the bill and was hoping for a “veto-proof” majority in the upper chamber.
“Congress must make it clear that Turkey will pay a heavy price if they attack the Syrian Kurds,” Van Hollen said, denouncing “Trump’s decision to betray” the Kurds.
Members of both parties have blasted the president over his decision to allow Turkey to enter northern Syria and attack the Kurdish-led forces who have been the main partner for Washington in the fight against Islamic State.
Republican Senator Mitt Romney warned the decision would be seen as “a betrayal” of the Kurds and set up the U.S. as “an unreliable ally.”
Chris Murphy, a Democrat, called Trump’s move “positively sinister,” noting that just this month the U.S. convinced the Kurds to remove military fortifications against Turkey, under an apparent promise to continue to defend them.
Senator Bernie Sanders, a left-wing progressive running in the 2020 Democratic presidential race, slammed Mr Trump’s “abrupt announcement,” saying the U.S. “must responsibly end our military interventions in the Middle East.”