President Donald Trump said the US “should never have been” in the Middle East and it was “the worst decision ever made” amid reports that Turkey has begun its operation to force back US wartime allies in Syria.
In a series of tweets defending his decision that the US would stand aside and allow a Turkish incursion in an area controlled by Kurdish extremists, Trump said that “fighting between various groups” has been “going on for hundreds of years,” adding: “The stupid endless wars, for us, are ending!”
Turkish troops crossed into Syria on Wednesday in an effort to force back US-supported Kurdish militants from the northeastern border area, according to a Turkish official. The Turkish incursion is expected to involve tens of thousands of soldiers backed by tanks and armored personnel carriers from NATO’s second-largest army.
Trump’s stance towards Turkey has been marked by confusion, when he told Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan that dozens of American troops who’d been working with Kurdish forces against IS would pull aside, effectively clearing the way for a Turkish operation.
Trump warned Turkey he would “destroy and obliterate” its economy if it did anything he considers “off limits” in Syria. A day later he appeared to praise Turkey, touting its trading relationship and announcing a visit by Erdogan on November 13.
The president’s policy tumult towards Turkey has drawn fierce criticism from allies in Congress, including Senator Lindsey Graham, who warned of “sanctions from hell” if Turkey moved into Syria.
Trump’s tweets criticising his predecessor’s moves on the Middle East cross familiar terrain. Trump has repeatedly leveled criticism at former President George W Bush for the decision to invade Iraq, stoked by intelligence reports and assertions that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction.
In an interview with The Hill last year, Trump called Bush’s move to go into the Middle East “the worst single mistake ever made in the history of our country,” saying it topped even the Civil War.