Turkey does not appear "as of now" to have begun its expected incursion into northern Syria, a senior Trump administration official said on Monday, contradicting reports from Syrian media outlets.
Syrian news agency Sana reported Monday that Turkey struck targets belonging to the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in northeastern Syria.
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The reports followed U.S. President Donald Trump's decision to withdraw U.S. troops from northern Syria, adding that Turkey is papering to carry out a military operation in the area.
Northern Syria is currently controlled by the Kurdish-led SDF, allies of the United States who have been cooperating with it in its fight against the Islamic State, which Turkey views as a terrorist organization.
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The U.S. official, briefing reporters on a conference call, said 50 American troops in the region that Turkey has targeted would be redeployed elsewhere in Syria, and added that the decision to redeploy the troops does not constitute a U.S. withdrawal from Syria.
Trump's decision to pull our American troops from Syria sparked criticism, including from Republican senior officials. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell warned of a broad confrontation between Turkey and the Kurds, while Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, a leading voice within his party on foreign policy and usually a very strong supporter of Trump, tweeted that "This decision to abandon our Kurdish allies and turn Syria over to Russia, Iran, & Turkey will put every radical Islamist on steroids. Shot in the arm to the bad guys. Devastating for the good guys."
Following the outcry, Trump tweeted that "if Turkey does anything that I, in my great and unmatched wisdom, consider to be off limits, I will totally destroy and obliterate the Economy of Turkey (I’ve done before!). They must, with Europe and others, watch over the captured ISIS fighters and families. The U.S. has done far more than anyone could have ever expected, including the capture of 100% of the ISIS Caliphate. It is time now for others in the region, some of great wealth, to protect their own territory. THE USA IS GREAT!"
Meanwhile, in a phone conversation with his Turkish counterpart, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif stressed Syrian sovereignty, while opposing military action.
Slamming Trump's decision, a spokesperson for the SDF said that the U.S. had promised it would not allow any Turkish action in the area, adding the forces were completely committed to the deal the U.S. promised involving the security apparatus on the [Syria-Turkey] border.