U.S. President Donald Trump’s surprise announcement Sunday night that the United States would allow Turkey to conduct a military offensive against its Kurdish allies in northeastern Syria prompted an immediate and overwhelming backlash. Even Trump's "favorite" television show "Fox & Friends" descended in fierce debate as a visibly upset Brian Kilmeade blasted the decision to abandon the Kurds.
Trump’s statement was followed by a bizarre and empathic Twitter defense Monday of the decision, which stirred up even further criticism as he attacked European allies and clearly stated that America would no longer play a role in Syria — including fighting ISIS unless ISIS threatened the United States.
Reactions from across the political spectrum showed shock and dismay at the Trump administration’s surprise decision. Richard Engel, NBC News’ chief foreigh correspondent (who had previously been kidnapped in Syria), wrote: “Kurdish sequence of events very ugly, stinks of betrayal. Kurds working with Americans, based on an agreement, had recently pulled their defenses away from Turkish border, only to wake up this am to hear Trump gave Turkey greenlight to invade.”
Prominent conservative Twitter account The Reagan Battalion, meanwhile, tweeted, “ISIS is OUR fight, and had we not ignored the dangers of Al-Qaeda for years and years 911 would have never happened. Mark this tweet, Turkey will slaughter the Kurds, the only true friend we have in the region, ISIS will re-emerge, and American blood will be spilled.”
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton wrote, “Let us be clear: The president has sided with authoritarian leaders of Turkey and Russia over our loyal allies and America’s own interests. His decision is a sickening betrayal both of the Kurds and his oath of office.”
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Trump’s most conservative GOP primary challenger, Joe Walsh, also criticized the move. “I don’t want a permanent US presence in Syria, but you don’t just up and abandon an ally like the Kurds in the middle of the night,” he saide. “You don’t leave them behind to be slaughtered. Just further proof that Donald Trump will betray anyone whose name is not Donald Trump.”
Former Trump Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci riffed off the ongoing Ukraine impeachment inquiry, asking, “Mr @POTUS did the Kurds just not having anything on the Bidens?”
Republican senators Lindsey Graham and Marco Rubio both tweeted that the decision would backfire and make the United States less safe in the future. Graham went on “Fox & Friends” and blasted his close ally, saying that Trump’s claim that ISIS has been defeated is “the biggest lie from this administration.”
Washington Post columnist Brian Klaas said: “Trump is giving Turkey what it wants and abandoning the Kurds, who have been a key partner advancing US interests. There are two Trump Towers in Turkey.”
Col. Morris Davis wrote, “Apparently since impeachment is sucking up all the air @realDonaldTrump decided it would be a good time for America to turn its back on the Kurds who deserve much of the credit for decimating ISIS.”
The United Nations also weighed in, saying that civilians must be protected in any Turkish military incursion into northeast Syria. Reuters quoted Panos Moumtzis, UN regional humanitarian coordinator for the Syria crisis, as saying: “We are hoping for the best but preparing for the worst." Moumtzis cited the “bitter history” of safe zones in places like Srebrenica as an ominous warning for what may come next.