‘Obliterate your economy’: Trump’s threat
US President Donald Trump has issued an ominous warning to Turkey as the country prepares to invade Syria.
Overnight Turkey announced it would send troops into northern Syria as US forces pulled out of the area.
That leaves US-backed YPG Kurdish soldiers - which Ankara consider a terrorist organisation - at the mercy of Turkey.
President Trump threatened to destroy Turkey's economy if its military goes "off limits" in Syria.
"As I have stated strongly before, and just to reiterate, if Turkey does anything that I, in my great and unmatched wisdom, consider to be off limits, I will totally destroy and obliterate the Economy of Turkey (I've done before!)," Mr Trump said on Twitter.
"They must, with Europe and others, watch over the captured ISIS fighters and families.
"The US has done far more than anyone could have ever expected, including the capture of 100% of the ISIS Caliphate.
"It is time now for others in the region, some of great wealth, to protect their own territory. THE USA IS GREAT!"
As I have stated strongly before, and just to reiterate, if Turkey does anything that I, in my great and unmatched wisdom, consider to be off limits, I will totally destroy and obliterate the Economy of Turkey (I’ve done before!). They must, with Europe and others, watch over...— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 7, 2019
The new Washington upheaval began late Sunday when the White House announced the removal of US troops from the Syria-Turkey border area, adding that "Turkey will soon be moving forward with its long-planned operation into Northern Syria."
This was quickly interpreted as a green light for Turkey's powerful military to invade Syria and attack Kurdish militias they consider a terrorist threat.
Mr Trump, who issued the policy shift shortly after a phone conversation with Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, insisted in tweets early Monday that the decision reflected his broader determination to end "ridiculous" US military entanglements abroad.
He dismissed the Kurds' sacrifice, saying they had indeed fought alongside US forces but were "paid massive amounts" to do so and "have been fighting Turkey for decades."
The Republican backlash was swift, intense and highly unusual from a party standing behind the president in the face of a Democratic party impeachment push for alleged abuse of office.
Mr Trump moved to backtrack later Monday, issuing the extraordinary warning.
Scrambling to stem the damage, the Pentagon warned that the United States does not endorse a Turkish military invasion of northern Syria, while at the State Department a senior official insisted the pullback concerned a "very small number" of troops.
The political damage, however, was already done.
In a rare rebuke, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell -- the top Republican in Congress - warned that a "precipitous" withdrawal from Turkey's border with Syria would only benefit Russia, Iran and Bashar al-Assad's government in Damascus, while increasing the risk of ISIS regrouping.
Another key voice against Mr Trump was that of Senator Lindsey Graham, the Republican chairman of the upper house's judiciary committee - and like Mr McConnell a linchpin in the defence against impeachment.
Calling abandonment of the Kurds "a disaster in the making" and "a stain on America's honour," Mr Graham warned of a Senate resolution demanding the White House change track.
"It will receive strong bipartisan support," he said, while Mr McConnell hinted at the same.
He threatened economic sanctions against Turkey if it invades Syria.
Ominously for Mr Trump, Mr Graham said the level of support in Congress would make this "veto-proof."
There were strongly worded condemnations from other senior Republicans. Senator Marco Rubio called a US Syria retreat "a grave mistake," while Nikki Haley, Mr Trump's popular former UN ambassador, said leaving Kurds "to die is a big mistake."
We must always have the backs of our allies, if we expect them to have our back. The Kurds were instrumental in our successful fight against ISIS in Syria. Leaving them to die is a big mistake. #TurkeyIsNotOurFriend— Nikki Haley (@NikkiHaley) October 7, 2019
Often railing against the costly occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan and - despite his bellicose rhetoric -- holding off from military strikes against Iran, Mr Trump believes he is responding to public fatigue over seemingly intractable conflicts.
"The United States was supposed to be in Syria for 30 days, that was many years ago," Mr Trump said in one of his Monday tweets.
"Turkey, Europe, Syria, Iran, Iraq, Russia and the Kurds will now have to figure the situation out," he said.
Republican Rand Paul was one of the rare prominent voices backing Mr Trump on "his promises to stop our endless wars."
But even many of Mr Trump's own allies appear to have run out of patience with what critics have long seen as a chaotic foreign policy.
In September, Mr Trump made the stunning announcement that he'd been on the verge of meeting Taliban guerrilla leaders to cap months of mostly behind-closed-doors negotiations on a US military exit after two decades of war.
Instead, Mr Trump said in the same statement -- posted on Twitter -- he was cancelling those talks entirely.
Trump has also kept the world on tenterhooks over his intentions in Iran, where he has given repeated mixed signals ranging from desire for historic talks to threatening war.
Mr Trump's former envoy on the campaign against the Islamic State group, Brett McGurk, did not hold back.
"Donald Trump is not a Commander-in-Chief. He makes impulsive decisions with no knowledge or deliberation," he said.
"He sends military personnel into harm's way with no backing. He blusters and then leaves our allies exposed when adversaries call his bluff or he confronts a hard phone call."