Trump threatens to 'totally destroy and obliterate' Turkey's economy

Image: President Donald Trump and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at
President Donald Trump and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at the opening ceremony of the NATO Summit in Brussels on July 11, 2018. Copyright Geoffroy Van Der Hasselt AFP - Getty Images file
By Dareh Gregorian with NBC News Politics
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Trump's warning came after bipartisan complaints that he's leaving the U.S.-allied Kurdish fighters to the mercy of the Turkish military.


President Donald Trump on Monday defended hisdecision to withdraw U.S. forces from the northern border of Syria, saying if Turkey does anything he considers "off limits" that he would "totally destroy and obliterate" the country's economy.

The U.S. military began withdrawing troops from northern Syria on Monday after the White House announced on Sunday that Turkey was set to begin a "long-planned operation" in the area. The Pentagon issued a statement later on Monday clarifying they would not support or endorse such an operation.

Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle have condemned the president's plan, calling it a betrayal that would leave Kurdish forces who've taken the lead in fighting ISIS terrorists for the United States at the mercy of the Turkish military.Turkey has long considered Kurdish fighters in Syria as a threat and experts on Monday told NBC News that the U.S. withdrawal could destabilize the region.

Trump, who spoke to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan by phone prior to Sunday's announcement, did not say what he would consider to be "off limits."

In an earlier tweet, he argued: "The endless and ridiculous wars are ENDING! We will be focused on the big picture, knowing we can always go back & BLAST!"

The president also maintained that, "The two most unhappy countries at this move are Russia & China, because they love seeing us bogged down, watching over a quagmire, & spending big dollars to do so."

Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle spoke out against Trump's decision.

"Once again, President Trump is deserting an ally in a foolish attempt to appease an authoritarian strongman," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in reference to Erdogan. "By turning operational responsibility over to the Turks, President Trump has abandoned our Kurdish partners. This decision poses a dire threat to regional security and stability, and sends a dangerous message to Iran and Russia, as well as our allies, that the United States is no longer a trusted partner.

Sen. Pat Toomey, R.-Penn., said in a statement that the decision to withdraw U.S. forces from the northern Syrian border poses "a significant threat to our national security and risks reversing the progress made in the region to destroy ISIS."

"It could also lead to war between Turkey and Syrian Kurds, a result that will boost enemy regimes in Syria, Iran, and Russia," Toomey said. "This betrayal of the Kurds will also severely harm our credibility as an ally the world over."

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