Turkish officials told the BBC that the letter was ‘thoroughly rejected’ by Erdogan last week, who promptly placed it in the trash and considered it ‘the final straw’.
In Trump’s October 9 letter, written as Erdogan’s forces prepared to cross into Syria, the president wrote: ‘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!’
Last night Erdogan declared at the parliament in Ankara, ‘We would stop the operation tonight, if they (the Kurds) withdrew right away,’ calling on the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) to ‘lay down their arms … destroy all their traps and get out of the safe zone that we have designated.’
President Donald Trump speaks to Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan during the opening ceremony of the NATO summit in July 2018
Turkish officials said the letter (pictured) was ‘thoroughly rejected’ by Erdogan, who promptly placed it ‘in the bin’
Assad’s forces entered the symbolic border town of Kobane last night, where the Kurds first united with US forces to drive out Islamic State four years ago
Mark Lowen, the BBC’s Turkey correspondent tweeted today: ‘When President Erdogan received Trump’s letter, he “thoroughly rejected it, threw it in the bin” and launched the Syria operation the same day.
Trump’s October 9 letter to Erdogan which the Turkish president threw in the trash:
Dear Mr President:
Let’s work out a good deal! 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. I’ve already given you a little sample with respect to Pastor Brunson.
I have worked hard to solve some of your problems. Don’t let the world down. You can make a great deal. General Mazloum is willing to negotiate with you, and he is willing to make concessions that they would never have made in the past. I am confidentially enclosing a copy of his letter to me, just received.
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!
I will call you later.
His mind was already made up to move in; letter was reportedly the final straw.’
The reports have thrown into question hopes that Mike Pence will be able to convince Turkey to halt its offensive against Kurdish fighters in northeast Syria when he meets with Erdogan today amid a deepening humanitarian crisis.
Pence met with President Erdogan on Thursday as he tried to pull off the politically improbable by getting the Turkish leader to agreed to a ceasefire in Syria.
The US Vice President touched down in Ankara alongside Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and national security adviser Robert O’Brien as they tried to stop the Syrian civil war descending into a bloody new phase.
However, the outlook for any deal appears bleak after Erdogan briefly toyed with the idea of refusing to meet with Pence at all.
He later relented, but has repeatedly insisted he will not stop his assault on the Kurds – America’s former allies in Syria – until he has driven them away from his border.
Erdogan has also insisted he is unafraid of US sanctions, despite Trump pledging to ‘destroy’ the Turkish economy if he does not agree.
Indeed, Kurdish authorities have claimed that Turkey is using banned weapons against its people, including napalm and white phosphorus.
Today British-based war monitor, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), said it could not confirm the allegation, but said it had seen a spike in burn wounds over the last two days from casualties, including civilians.
Kurdish officials posted a video on social media showing children with burns one doctor in Hasakeh province argues are consistent with the use of banned weapons.
Made notorious by their widespread use in the Vietnam War, napalm and related chemicals are mixtures of a gelling agent and a volatile petrochemical used in incendiary bombs.
White phosphorus can be used to create a smoke screen or as a battlefield marker, but it can also be deployed as a deadly incendiary weapon, a use prohibited under international law.
Trump has been accused of abandoning the Kurdish-led SDF who drove out ISIS with US support in March.
Vice President Mike Pence disembarks from a plane upon his arrival in Ankara, Turkey today
Military vehicles transporting Syrian regime troops and rolled up mattresses are stationed on the outskirts of the northern Syrian border town of Kobane
Congress yesterday passed a vote 354-60 condemning the US withdrawal ahead of Erdogan’s invasion on October 9.
The Kurds have already stated they cannot be expected to guard some 10,000 jihadists in jails in the region while fighting Erdogan’s forces as reports of Islamic State resurgence swirl.
The symbolic Kurdish stronghold of Kobane
In 2012, the Kurdish YPG militia captured a swathe of territory in northern Syria from President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.
One of those was Kobane, in July of that year, in the Aleppo governorate, at the height of the Syrian Civil War.
Assad’s forces evacuated without resistance.
In September 2014, it came under siege by ISIS, sending more than 130,000 refugees fleeing over the border into Turkey as the jihadists advanced through villages surrounding the city.
The US-led aerial coalition, which had first targeted ISIS in August in Iraq, began attacking its forces around Kobane.
ISIS fighters continued to close in on the stronghold as the Kurds offered determined resistance.
In October, ISIS broke through to some fringe districts in the east and south of the town, raising their black flag from the rooftops.
In response the US ramped up its strikes on the jihadists and delivered weapons and munitions drops to the Kurds.
As the siege entered its fourth month, the Kurds began retaking strategic hilltops around the town and cutting off ISIS supply lines.
In January 2015, following ferocious bombardments by the US, the Kurds were able to finally drive ISIS out of Kobane.
During the siege the city, which had a population of around 400,000, had dwindled to almost nobody, its streets deserted.
Assad’s forces entered on Wednesday night, October 15, 2019, after the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) were bolstered by Damascus following Turkey’s incursion into northern Syria.
For the Kurds it is a symbol of their resolve and ambitions for autonomy, something which Erdogan cannot abide on his border, considering the YPG a terrorist faction with links to the PKK rebel group based in his own country.
But Trump has stood by his decision, calling it ‘strategically brilliant’ this week.
Following a phone call with Erdogan, who has rejected calls for ceasefire or mediation, Trump dispatched top aides including Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to Ankara for emergency talks.
In Washington’s absence, Moscow has moved to fill the void and along with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, strongholds across northern Syria are being bolstered where US forces were once stationed.
Last night, plans for Erdogan’s 20 mile deep ‘safe zone’ were scuppered when Assad’s men rolled into the symbolic border stronghold of Kobane.
Kobane was where the US and Kurdish fighters first united to defeat the Islamic State group four years ago and holds powerful symbolism for Syrian Kurds and their ambitions of self-rule.
Syria’s presence in Kobane puts a firm limit on Turkish ambitions in its offensive.
The town lies between a Turkish-controlled enclave farther west and smaller areas to the east that Turkey seized in the past week.
The battle for Kobane turned the once-nondescript town into a centerpiece of the international campaign against IS, with TV cameras flocking to the Turkish side of the border to track the plumes of smoke rising from explosions in the besieged town.
Then-U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry declared it would be ‘morally very difficult’ not to help Kobane.
The IS extremists were finally driven out in early 2015 in their first major defeat, and an alliance was cemented that would eventually bring down the group’s ‘caliphate’ in Syria.
Now the Kurdish authority agreed to allow Damascus to deploy its military in the town and other parts of northeast Syria to protect them from Turkey’s offensive launched after U.S. President Donald Trump pulled back American troops working with the Kurds.
On Wednesday, the U.S-led coalition said it had vacated a cement factory south of Kobane, which had served as a coordination center with the Kurdish-led forces. Coalition spokesman Col. Myles Caggins said that after troops left the base, two U.S. fighter jets launched pre-planned airstrikes to destroy ammunition that was left behind.
The coalition also said its forces had left Raqqa, the former capital of the Islamic State that was liberated in 2017, and Tabqa, a town to the west.
‘Coalition forces continue a deliberate withdrawal from northeast Syria,’ Caggins tweeted.
Pence will urge Turkey to halt its offensive against Kurdish fighters in northeast Syria when he meets with Erdoğan today
A military convoy of Assad’s men on the road to Kobane yesterday before the rolled in to prevent Erdogan’s advance
An explosion seen in Ras al-Ayn, Syria caused by shelling by Turkish forces on Thursday
After being effectively abandoned by the U.S., the Kurds’ turn to the Syrian government for protection has allowed Damascus’ ally, Russia, to step in as the biggest power player.
Moscow further asserted that role Wednesday, offering to mediate a resolution to the conflict, one day before U.S. Vice President Mike Pence was to begin a mission to press Turkey for a cease-fire.
Donald Trump’s ’embarrassing’ simplistic letter mocked on Twitter
A letter sent from Donald Trump to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been mocked online for its ‘adolescent quality’.
In the letter, which was written on October 9 as Erdogan’s forces prepared to cross into Syria, Trump urges Turkey’s hardman president to ‘not be a fool’ as he warns the leader against the invasion.
But the simplistic tone of the note did little to impress former presidential adviser David Gergen, who told CNN he assumed the letter was a fake.
‘When I read it, I immediately called my research assistant and said, ‘See if this is fake. I just can’t believe the White House sent this out”, he said.
‘It is unprecedented to the best of my knowledge, and I do think it makes it tougher to work with Turkey, which is a member of NATO, and we need to figure out a way to get this stopped short of much more violence.’
Several journalists took to Twitter on Wednesday to confirm the note was, in fact, legitimate after they were forced to seek confirmation from the White House that the ’embarrassing’ letter was real.
Katie Rogers, White House correspondent for the New York Times, said: ‘Felt the need to ask WH if this is actually real and it is.’
International affairs academic Tom Nichols also took to the social network to brand the letter ’embarrassing beyond words’.
He said: ‘This is embarrassing beyond words. It suggests the President is mentally unstable. No competent staff would have let this thing leave the building.
‘Imagine the letters we haven’t seen’.
Wajahat Ali added: ‘The best/worst part is Trump probably leaked his Erdogan letter to Fox News thinking it made him look strong and smart’.
Pence was set to meet with Erdogan at around 11:30am on Thursday, while Pompeo and other officials are expected to hold talks with counterparts. A top aide to Erdogan, Ibrahim Kalin, met National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien on Wednesday and said he conveyed Turkey’s position.
Trump said on Wednesday that he hadn’t given Erdogan ‘a green light’ to invade Syria. He also claimed releasing ‘a very powerful letter’ would dispel misconceptions about the impact of his troop withdrawal days before he wrote the note.
‘If anybody saw the letter, which can be released very easily if you’d like – I could certainly release it,’ he said.
‘But I wrote a letter right after that conversation – a very powerful letter. There was never given a green light.’
The letter was initially leaked to Trish Reagan, an evening anchor on the Fox Business Network, then confirmed by the White House as being genuine amid questions online over whether it was a parody.
It appears to support the president’s contention that he didn’t give Erdogan his approval for the Turkish military campaign.
‘Let’s work out a good deal!’ he wrote. ‘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.’
Trump promised new concessions from Mazloum Kobani, commander of the Kurdish army known as the Syrian Democratic Forces.
‘General Mazloum is willing to negotiate with you, and he is willing to make concessions that they would never have made in the past,’ he wrote. ‘I am confidently enclosing a copy of his letter to me, just received.’
The U.S. has funded and trained Mazloum’s forces for at least five years. The SDF was America’s main proxy fighting the ISIS terror army in Syria.
The president has struggled to sidestep blame for the bloodshed that followed his decision to withdraw U.S. troops from northern Syria.
‘Maybe they’re going to fight it out,’ he said of Syria and Turkey, ‘but our men aren’t going to get killed over it.’
‘And just one other thing,’ he added. ‘They’ve been fighting for hundreds of years. This has been going on for hundreds of years.’