Trump Calls Turkey’s Syrian Offensive a ‘Bad Idea,’ But Opposes ‘Senseless Wars’

Smoke billowing after a Turkish bombardment in Tel Abyad, Syria, on Wednesday.

Mr. Trump demurred, evidently believing...

Mr. Trump demurred, evidently believing that Mr. Erdogan would not be willing to risk the president’s ire. But Mr. Erdogan effectively “called the president’s bluff,” the person said. What followed was a scramble to move American personnel from harm’s way in northern Syria.

In the days since, Mr. Trump has made repeated references to his desire to withdraw from Syria and avoid the “stupid endless wars” against which he campaigned in 2016. But that has furthered the impression — both in the United States but, perhaps more important, in Turkey — that Mr. Trump had blessed Mr. Erdogan’s proposed incursion.

A Kurdish-led militia known as the Syrian Democratic Forces has fought alongside the United States in the campaign against the Islamic State over the past five years. Mr. Erdogan sees Syria’s Kurdish fighters as an enemy, and wants to flush them out of a safe zone along his country’s southern border with Syria, which has been devastated by a civil war of more than eight years. The conflict has produced an exodus of roughly one million Syrian refugees into Turkey whom Ankara wants to relocate into a secured zone across the border.

The long-term reverberations in Washington will depend on the extent of the Turkish operation, which remains unclear.

On Monday, Mr. Trump warned that if Turkey did anything that he considered “off limits, I will totally destroy and obliterate the Economy of Turkey.” Mr. Trump has not clearly defined those limits, although asked by reporters on Wednesday what he would do if Mr. Erdogan wiped out the Kurds in Syria, Mr. Trump replied: “I will wipe out his economy if he does that.”

That supports the view of analysts who say the real red line for Mr. Trump and many members of Congress is not a matter of territory but rather the killing of Kurdish fighters.

Soner Cagaptay, a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, said he believed that Mr. Erdogan would calibrate any offensive to limit casualties that would prompt a major response from Congress and potentially humiliate Mr. Trump. He also said Turkey appeared to be moving on Arab-majority areas where its military would be more welcome than in heavily Kurdish areas nearby.

Read more

Star InactiveStar InactiveStar InactiveStar InactiveStar Inactive