update: Erdogan has arrived at the White House this afternoon for what promises to be an interesting meeting given the immensely strained US-Turkey relationship of the past months.
However, Trump’s initial message upon greeting his Turkish counterpart was upbeat and positive. “Our trade relations are very good, we want to increase the trade volume to $100 billion,” he said, promising to give further details at the follow-up press conference after the meeting.
“We will discuss the S-400 and F-35 issue,” Trump also assured reporters.
— EHA News (@eha_news) November 13, 2019
He also hinted of the other major pressing issue to be discussed: “It’s a great honor to be with President Erdogan… the ceasefire is holding very well, we’ve been speaking to the Kurds and they seem to be very satisfied, as you know we pulled back our troops quite a while ago…”
“I want to thank the President for the job they’ve [Turkey] done in Syria,” Trump said of Erdogan.
And on that note, he already addressed the rationale for continued US troop presence in Syria, saying with Erdogan sitting next to him: “We are keeping the oil. We have the oil. The oil is secure. We left troops behind only for the oil.”
Trump, with Erdogan next to him, on Syria: “We are keeping the oil. We have the oil. The oil is secure. We left troops behind only for the oil.” pic.twitter.com/9svW3ehwp5
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) November 13, 2019
“Erdogan is respected in his country and region,” Trump had told reporters ahead of the two making their way into the Oval Office, giving a thumbs up on the White House steps.
Meanwhile, a large protest is forming just outside as the two settle in for a planned-for lengthy meeting.
— Joyce Karam (@Joyce_Karam) November 13, 2019
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Former top White House Syria and Iraq envoy Brett McGurk, who served under both Obama and Trump administrations, has issued 15 pressing questions on the occasion of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s meeting with the US president today at the White House.
Here are “15 quick questions Trump may want to ask Erdogan, but won’t” —the former top White House envoy to the region stated provocatively on Twitter.
Crucially, McGurk has pointed the finger at Turkey, and more specifically at Erdogan and his intelligence services for providing state protection to the now slain ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, given as McGurk points out in the below series of questions that “Baghdadi [was] living in a safe house with well-prepared tunnels less than 5km from [the Turkish] border.”
15 quick questions Trump may want to ask Erdogan, but won’t:
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1. How exactly was Baghdadi living in a safe house with well-prepared tunnels less than 5km from your border?
2. Why was Baghdadi’s number two found in Jarabulus, a small town on your border that you fully control?
3. When you demanded that the U.S. move the SDF 30km from your border, did you know Baghdadi was living with his family <5km from your border?
4. Why do the areas of Syria that you claim to control or influence so often become permissive havens for AQ and/or ISIS leaders?
5. In the last few weeks, you claim to have arrested a number of Baghdadi’s relatives to include one of his wives. Why didn’t you arrest these relatives of the world’s most wanted terrorist until now? And what were they doing in Turkey?
6. How exactly did 40,000 foreign fighters travel freely through Turkey into Syria, many of whom became the backbone for AQ and ISIS?
7. Why did you reject repeated and specific requests to help close your border to ISIS, then sealed the border only after the SDF defeated ISIS?
8. Why did you agree to joint patrols with Putin and Russian forces in Syria but rejected joint patrols in adjacent areas with American troops, and then placed our troops in grave danger with an unprovoked attack that ceded 2/3 of NE Syria to Russia and Assad?
9. Why, despite years of effort, hundreds of millions of American taxpayer dollars, and deployment of our best military planners to Ankara, were the Syrian opposition groups you insisted on supporting to fight ISIS found far too extreme for U.S. troops to partner with safely?
10. Why, as a NATO ally, an alliance built on shared interests and values, do Turkish citizens who criticize your policies, particularly on Syria, routinely wind up exiled, purged, or jailed? (Why is a NATO ally the world’s largest jailer of journalists?)
10. Why, as a NATO ally, an alliance built on shared interests and values, do Turkish citizens who criticize your policies, particularly on Syria, routinely wind up exiled, purged, or jailed? (Why is a NATO ally the world’s largest jailer of journalists?) https://t.co/4t29Arht7o
— Brett McGurk (@brett_mcgurk) November 13, 2019
11. Why did your government become the world’s largest sanctions buster on behalf of Iran with illegal proceeds, according to SDNY court filings, lining the pockets of senior Turkish officials? Where has all that money (billions) gone?
12. When you threaten to send 2-3 million refugees into NE Syria, where will the people who already live there go? Do you agree with Trump that Kurds can migrate from their traditional areas to a remote oil region?
13. Why did you start making specific military threats against NE Syria — which culminated during your October 6 call with Trump — on the very day you took delivery of the S400 missile system from Russia? Was that a big coincidence?
Erodgan, talking about northeast Syria with TRT yesterday, said: “The most suitable for this area are Arabs. These areas are not suitable for the lifestyle of Kurds.”
Asked, in what way? “Because these are virtually desert regions.”
— Sarah Dadouch | سارة دعدوش (@SarahDadouch) October 25, 2019
14. Why did your state-backed media hail an “operation” to brutally murder a Kurdish woman until realizing it was (indeed) a probable war crime and then deleted any trace of the story? Has anyone been held accountable?
15. Why do you continue to insist on expanding the influence of extremist groups known to harbor al Qaeda and responsible for war crimes? Are any of these groups now in NE Syria using American weapons? Do they operate under US-controlled skies?
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Lastly, McGurk quoted the following as illustrating the likely end result of Wednesday’s Trump-Erdogan meeting: “If you forgive the fox for stealing your chicken, it will steal your sheep, and then your cow.”