General Wesley Clark, the former commander of all NATO forces, has suggested that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan blackmailed President Donald Trump in order to get him to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria.
Trump dropped a huge political bombshell last week when he announced that he had unilaterally decided to pull out of Syria because the terrorist group ISIS (Islamic State, Iraq and Syria) had been “defeated.”
However, as many knowledgeable people have pointed out since Trump’s announcement, ISIS has NOT been defeated.
So what was the justification for the pullout? We do know that Russian President Vladimir Putin approved of the move. Senator Lindsey Graham, a strong supporter of the president, was one of many critics of Trump’s Syria move on Capitol Hill. He called Trump’s claim of ISIS being defeated “fake news.”
The highly-respected Clark was also very critical. He said that U.S. allies in the Middle East have been openly wondering if Erdogan coerced Trump in some way.
During a television interview over the Christmas holiday Clark said:
“There doesn’t seem to be any strategic rationale for the decision. And if there is no strategic rationale, then you have to ask, ‘Why was the decision made?”
I can tell you that people around the world are asking this. And some of our friends and our allies in the Middle East are asking:
‘Well, did Erdogan blackmail the president? Was there a payoff or something? Why would a guy make a decision like this?’”
Clark also strongly disagreed with Trump’s false claim that ISIS has been defeated, saying:
“We’re not finished with ISIS….What does this say about the foreign policy of the United States? That we’re not reliable? That we make strategic decisions based on no strategic logic?”
Trump’s announcement last week of his planned troop withdrawal from Syria reportedly led to the resignation of another highly-respected general, Defense Secretary James Mattis.
These two events have added to a strong feeling among many observers all over the world that the White House has descended into chaos. This belief was strengthened when Trump decided to shut down the U.S. government and then threatened to fire the Chairman of the Federal Reserve and the U.S. Treasury Secretary.
Members of Congress, as well as leaders of the military, have said that removing U.S. troops from Syria will help Russia and Turkey achieve their goals in the Middle East, but hurt U.S. allies.
Trump disclosed on Monday that he had spoken to Erdogan about the Syria troop withdrawal, writing on Twitter:
“President @RT_Erdogan of Turkey has very strongly informed me that he will eradicate whatever is left of ISIS in Syria….and he is a man who can do it plus, Turkey is right ‘next door.’ Our troops are coming home!”
President @RT_Erdogan of Turkey has very strongly informed me that he will eradicate whatever is left of ISIS in Syria….and he is a man who can do it plus, Turkey is right “next door.” Our troops are coming home!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 24, 2018
The fact that General Wesley Clark, after speaking to U.S. allies in the Middle East, believes that Trump may be being blackmailed by Turkey, is a very bad sign. There is already a great deal of evidence that Trump makes U.S. policy decisions based on how they affect his personal business interests.
What is it that Erdogan has over Donald Trump? Nobody seems to know for sure — yet.
Perhaps some time in the near future we will discover that a secret real estate deal is in the works, and they will soon break ground on the new Trump Tower Istanbul.
And in breaking news, to support this hypothesis, it has just been reported this morning that President Erdogan has issued an invitation to President Trump to visit Istanbul sometime in the coming year.
I am a lifelong Democrat with a passion for social justice and progressive issues. I have degrees in writing, economics and law from the University of Iowa.