'Don't Be a Tough Guy. Don't Be a Fool!': White House Releases Trump Letter to Erdogan on Syria

U.S. President enclosed another letter sent to him by the commander of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces

Letter from U.S. President Donald Trump to Turkey's President Tayyip Erdogan warning Erdogan about Turkish military policy and the Kurdish people in Syria, October 16, 2019.
\ JIM BOURG/ REUTERS

U.S. President Donald Trump warned Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan in a letter about Turkey's incursion into Syria, "Don't be a tough guy" and "Don't be a fool!"

The October 9 letter was released by the White House on Wednesday as Trump battled to control the political damage following his decision to pull U.S. troops out of northern Syria, clearing the way for the Turkish incursion against America's Kurdish allies.

The letter tried to persuade Erdogan to reverse a decision to invade Syria that Erdogan told Trump about in an Oct 6 phone call.

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"Let's work out a good deal!" Trump said. "You don't want to be responsible for slaughtering thousands of people, and I don't want to be responsible for destroying the Turkish economy - and I will."

Also Wednesday, Trump described former Defense Secretary James Mattis as "the world's most overrated general" during a meeting with Congressional leaders to discuss Turkey's incursion into Syria, according to a Democrat who offered a readout of the contentious meeting on condition of anonymity.

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Trump, according to the person, was presented at one point with a quote from Mattis warning of an Islamic State group resurgence if the U.S. does not continue to apply pressure. But Trump responded with the insult, criticizing Mattis for not being "tough enough" and added, "I captured ISIS."

Trump also said during the meeting that 100 Islamic State prisoners had escaped following the U.S. withdrawal from the region, but insisted they were the "least dangerous" ones.

Asked whether that was true, current Defense Secretary Mark Esper said he didn't know.

Trump had the letter released to bolster his view that he did not give Turkey a green light to invade Syria. Many lawmakers have been sharply critical of his decision to remove American forces from the conflict zone.

"I have worked hard to solve some of your problems. Don't let the world down. You can make a great deal," said Trump in the letter.

The president wrote that the commander of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, General Mazloum Kobani Abdi, was willing to negotiate and to make some concessions.

He said he had confidentially enclosed to Erdogan a copy of a letter Mazloum had sent him.

"History will look upon you favorably if you get this done the right and humane way. It will look upon you forever as the devil if good things don't happen. Don't be a tough guy. Don't be a fool!" said Trump.

He added: "I will call you later."