‘Don’t be a fool’: Trump’s incredible letter
An incredible letter sent by Donald Trump to the Turkish President - warning him against "slaughtering thousands of people" - has been revealed, as the US leader continues to cop criticism for withdrawing troops from Syria.
White House confirms authenticity of Trump letter to Erdogan, dated 10/9: “History... will look upon you forever as the devil if good things don’t happen. Don’t be a tough guy. Don’t be a fool! I will call you later.”— Peter Alexander (@PeterAlexander) October 16, 2019
First reported by Fox Business. pic.twitter.com/lImxfhb2j1
In the letter, now confirmed as authentic by the White House, Mr Trump warns the Recep Tayyip Erdogan: "Don't be a tough guy. Don't be a fool! I will call you later."
The full letter, dated October 9, reads:
Dear Mr. President,
Let's work out a good deal! You don't want to be responsible for slaughtering thousands of people, and I don't want to be responsible for destroying the Turkish economy - and I will. I've already given you a little sample with respect to Pastor Brunson.
I have worked hard to solve some of your problems. Don't let the world down. You can make a great deal. General Mazloum is willing to negotiate with you, and he is willing to make concessions that they would never have made in the past. I am confidentially enclosing a copy of his letter to me, just received.
History will look upon you favourably if you get this done the right and humane way. It will look upon you forever as the devil if good things don't happen. Don't be a tough guy. Don't be a fool!
I will call you later.
The revelation comes as Mr Trump took a swipe at his former allies - the Kurds in northern Syria - and compared the war in the region to playing with sand in a bombastic rant.
During an Oval Office meeting with the Italian President he told reporters that the Kurds are "not angels".
He also said that Turkey's invasion of the region "has nothing to do with us" and claimed the Kurds "are much safer now".
The bold statements come after sustained criticism over his recent decision to pull US forces out of northern Syria - where the US had teamed up with the Kurds to fight ISIS.
"Our soldiers are not in harm's way, as they shouldn't be, as two countries fight over land that has nothing to do with us. And the Kurds are much safer now. The Kurds know how to fight and as I said, they're not angels," Mr Trump said
"But they fought with us. We paid a lot of money for them to fight with us and that's OK. They did well when they fought with us. They didn't do so well when they didn't fight with us."
Defending his decision to pull troops out, he said: "Syria may have some help with Russia, and that's fine. They've got a lot of sand over there. So, there's a lot of sand that they can play with. Let them fight their own wars."
Condemnation of Mr Trump's stance was quick and severe, not only from Democrats but from Republicans who have been staunch supporters on virtually all issues.
The House, bitterly divided over the Trump impeachment inquiry, banded together for an overwhelming 354-60 denunciation of the US troop withdrawal.
Many politicians expressed worry that it may lead to revival of ISIS as well as Russian presence and influence in the area - in addition to slaughter of many Kurds.
Mr Trump said he is fulfilling a campaign promise to bring US troops home from "endless wars" in the Middle East - casting aside criticism that a sudden US withdrawal from Syria not only betrays the Kurdish fighters but stains US credibility around the world and opens an important region to Russia, which is moving in.
"We have a situation where Turkey is taking land from Syria. Syria's not happy about it. Let them work it out," Mr Trump said. "They have a problem at a border. It's not our border. We shouldn't be losing lives over it."
Mr Trump said he was sending Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to Ankara to urge the Turks to halt their weeklong offensive into northeastern Syria. But his remarks, first to reporters in the Oval Office and later at a news conference with his Italian counterpart, suggested he sees little at stake for America.
More than once, Mr Trump suggested the United States has little at stake in the Middle East because it is geographically distant - a notion shared by some prior to September 11, 2001, when al-Qaeda militants used Afghanistan as a base from which to attack the U.S. That attack set off a series of armed conflicts, including in Iraq, that Mr Trump considers a waste of American lives and treasure.
The current withdrawal is the worst decision of Mr Trump's presidency, said South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, who meets often with the President and is one of his strongest and most important supporters in Congress.
"To those who think the Mideast doesn't matter to America, remember 9/11 - we had that same attitude on 9/10 2001."
Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell said he strongly disagreed with Mr Trump and had told the President so. But he asked, "What tools do we have" to back up that disagreement?
Senator Marco Rubio told reporters he didn't know what could be done to undo the harm he felt was resulting.
"There are some mistakes that are not easy to reverse. And there are some that are irreversible," said Mr Rubio, who was a Trump rival for the GOP presidential nomination in 2016.
Turkish troops and Turkish-backed Syrian fighters launched their offensive against Kurdish forces in northern Syria a week ago, two days after Mr Trump suddenly announced he was withdrawing the US from the area.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said he wants to create a 30-km-deep "safe zone" in Syria.
Ankara has long argued the Kurdish fighters are nothing more than an extension of the Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK, which has waged a guerrilla campaign inside Turkey since the 1980s and which Turkey, as well as the US and European Union, designate as a terrorist organisation.
Mr Trump mischaracterised the progress made thus far by the US military in carrying out his instructions to withdraw all 1000 troops in northeastern Syria. He referred to the approximately two dozen soldiers who evacuated from Turkey's initial attack zone last week, but cast that as meaning the US has "largely" completed its pullout.
A US official familiar with planning for the withdrawal of the 1000 said that they are consolidating onto two main bases but have not yet begun flying out of Syria in significant numbers.
Military equipment is being gathered and flown out, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the withdrawal, which poses big security risks.
Mr Trump downplayed the crisis that followed his decision to pull out of Syria, which critics say amounted to giving Turkey a green light to invade against the Kurdish fighters.
"It's not between Turkey and the United States, like a lot of stupid people would like you to believe," Mr Trump said, adding that he's more than willing to let adversaries fight it out in that area of the Middle East.
In the meantime, he said, "Our soldiers are not in harm's way, as they shouldn't be."
Mr Trump did impose new sanctions on Turkey this week in an attempt to force Mr Erdogan to end his assault. But he said Wednesday, "It's time for us to come home."
Even as Mr Trump defended his removal of US troops from northeastern Syria, he praised his decision to send more troops and military equipment to Saudi Arabia to help the kingdom defend against Iran.
Mr Trump said the US is sending missiles and "great power" to the Saudis, and "they're paying for that."