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Trump Vows to 'Devastate' Turkey if Erdogan Attacks Kurds

01-14-2019
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and US President Donald Trump, AP photo

JERUSALEM, Israel – President Donald Trump began the week with harsh words for Turkey, threatening to "devastate" the nation if it harms the US's Kurdish allies. 

"Starting the long overdue pullout from Syria while hitting the little remaining ISIS territorial caliphate hard, and from many directions," Trump tweeted Sunday night. "Will attack again from existing nearby base if it reforms. Will devastate Turkey economically if they hit Kurds."

Trump also said the US would also create a "20-mile safe zone."

However, the president also sent a strong warning to the Kurds. 

"...Likewise, do not want the Kurds to provoke Turkey. Russia, Iran, and Syria have been the biggest beneficiaries of the long term US policy of destroying ISIS in Syria - natural enemies. We also benefit but it is now time to bring our troops back home. Stop the ENDLESS WARS!" Trump concluded

The Kurdish YPG fought alongside the US in the battle against ISIS and controls part of northern Syria.  However, Turkey views them as a part of the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK) which is involved in a decades-long revolt against Turkish rule. Erdogan sees the PKK as a terrorist group and vows to destroy them. 

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's spokesperson Ibrahim Kalin said Trump was making a "fatal" mistake to threaten Turkey. 

"Mr @realDonaldTrump It is a fatal mistake to equate Syrian Kurds with the PKK, which is on the US terrorists list, and its Syria branch PYD/YPG. Turkey fights against terrorists, not Kurds. We will protect Kurds and other Syrians against all terrorist threats," he wrote on Twitter Monday. 

"Mr @realDonaldTrump Terrorists can't be your partners & allies. Turkey expects the US to honor our strategic partnership and doesn't want it to be shadowed by terrorist propaganda. There is no difference between DAESH, PKK, PYD and YPG. We will continue to fight against them all," said Kalin.

US military officials say they have begun withdrawing equipment. About 2,000 troops are expected to depart in the coming weeks. 

President Trump's decision to leave the region has raised concern that the US is abandoning its allies. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told CBN News last week in Cairo that the US will protect the Kurdish people. 

"Our message is straightforward," Pompeo told CBN News. "The work that the Kurdish forces did with us alongside in Syria has been important. It took down a caliphate -- 99 percent of the real estate that was held by ISIS. We remember people sitting in cages being burned. Seems like a long time ago but frankly it's the good work that United States did with a big coalition and we'll work with the Turks to make sure there is security for them as well and that the Kurdish people inside Syria are indeed protected." 

Another group that is fearful of the United States' absence in the region are the Assyrian Christians in Syria. They too are concerned of Turkish aggression in the region. 

In an open letter, Syriac-Assyrian Christians write, "100,000 Syriac and other Christians will be killed or driven away if Turkey invades."

Christians fear Turkey's radical Islamists will persecute them if Turkey invades northern Syria. 

"Will we see jihadists coming back? Enslaving religious minorities? Destroying churches?" Aykan Erdemir, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies asks. "And it's not just fears of genocide, but beyond that, we're also talking about the extinction of an ancient way of life. We're talking about Christianity in its cradle, Yezidism in its homeland being completely destroyed." 

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