‘Don’t be a fool’ Trump tells Erdogan in letter: World reacts

An Oct. 9 letter from Donald Trump to Turkey's President Tayyip Erdogan warning Erdogan about Turkish military policy. (Reuters)
Updated 18 October 2019

‘Don’t be a fool’ Trump tells Erdogan in letter: World reacts

  • Turkey's President Erdogan threw the letter in the bin while Russia described it as 'highly unusual'
  • Trump's rivals at home said they were astonished by the tone of the communication

JEDDAH: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan seems to have bowed to the US pressure to halt his offensive against Kurdish-led forces in northern Syria. 

Erdogan, who had initially refused to meet with US Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, held talks with both leaders on Thursday and then agreed to a five-day cease-fire in the attacks on Kurdish fighters to allow the Kurds to withdraw to roughly 20 miles away from the Turkish border. 

After more than four hours of negotiations with Erdogan, Pence said the purpose of his high-level mission was to end the bloodshed caused by Turkey’s invasion of Syria.

“The Turkish side will pause Operation Peace Spring in order to allow for the withdrawal of YPG forces from the safe zone for 120 hours,” Pence told a news conference. “All military operations under Operation Peace Spring will be paused, and Operation Peace Spring will be halted entirely on completion of the withdrawal.”




Welcoming it, President Donald Trump tweeted: This deal could NEVER have been made 3 days ago. There needed to be some “tough” love in order to get it done. Great for everybody. Proud of all!

It followed an extraordinary letter from Trump in which he warned Erdogan: “Don’t be a fool!” Sent the day Turkey launched its incursion, Trump said history risked branding him a “devil.”

“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,” he wrote.

Earlier, Saudi political analyst and international relations expert Dr. Hamdan Al-Shehri told Arab News: “Trump’s letter stated clearly that Erdogan’s acts are savage and meant to kill the Kurds. The letter also blamed Erdogan for attempting to invade Syria.”

He added: “Erdogan’s racial tendency against the Kurds is behind all that. He does not care about Syrians at all. He wants to force the displaced back to Syria where they will be between the hammer of the regime and the anvil of Daesh.” 

Saudi Prince Abdulrahman bin Musa’ad tweeted: “Couldn’t find an authentic translation for the letter. Anyways, the ‘Don’t be a fool’ part is enough.”
Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, who had criticized Trump for the withdrawal, said it was a “good letter” and had urged him to release it.

Earlier, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte urged Erdogan to freeze the offensive. “I reiterated Italy’s firm call to suspend this military initiative. I have asked (Erdogan) to withdraw troops to Turkish territory,” Conte said.

“This initiative risks further destabilizing a territory and a community that have already been hugely affected (by the war).”

Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov said that even though Turkey was a formal candidate to join the EU and was hosting some 3.6 million Syrian refugees on its soil, he could not back the military action.

“We have supported them in everything else, because we are partners in NATO, we are neighbors and they protect us from migrant inflows. But for the war, they cannot expect our support,” he told reporters gathered for the summit.

David Sassoli, the president of the European Parliament, called for the EU agreement on suspending arms sales to Turkey to go further and include the cancellation of existing contracts.


(With AP)

Iraq officials must ‘step up’ to enact reforms: UN envoy

Updated 13 November 2019

Iraq officials must ‘step up’ to enact reforms: UN envoy

  • UN has put forward a phased roadmap calling for an immediate end to violence and electoral reform within 2 weeks
  • Protesters have escalated their demands to deep-rooted regime change

BAGHDAD: Iraqi officials must ramp up their response to mass demonstrations demanding an overhaul of the political system, the UN representative in Baghdad told AFP in an exclusive interview Wednesday.
Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, who heads the UN’s Iraq mission (UNAMI), said the country’s authorities must “step up to the plate and make things happen.”
“They are elected by the people, they are accountable to them,” she said.
Protests broke out in Baghdad and the country’s Shiite-majority south in early October over rampant corruption, lack of jobs and notoriously poor services.
One in five people lives below the poverty line, despite the vast oil wealth of OPEC’s second biggest producer.
The United Nations has proposed a phased roadmap that, in a crucial step, was endorsed by Iraq’s top Shiite cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani after meeting Hennis-Plasschaert.
It calls for an immediate end to violence, electoral reform and anti-graft measures within two weeks followed by constitutional amendments and infrastructure legislation within three months.
Hennis-Plasschaert discussed the plan with lawmakers on the sidelines of a parliamentary session on Wednesday, telling them: “Now is the time to act, otherwise any momentum will be lost — lost at a time when many, many Iraqis demand concrete results.”
Protesters have escalated their demands to deep-rooted regime change, unimpressed by government promises of reform.
“There is lots at stake here. Public trust is at an all-time low,” Hennis-Plasschaert told AFP.
“Nothing is more detrimental to public trust than saying ‘A’ and doing ‘B.’ Nothing is more harmful than overpromising and under-delivering,” she added.
Hennis-Plasschaert, 46, was named UNAMI chief last year after having served as the Netherlands defense minister from 2012 until 2017.
She is one of the very few diplomatic figures who meets with Sistani, the revered 89-year-old cleric who never appears in public.
Following their meeting on Monday, she said Sistani, known as the marjaiyah, feared political forces were “not serious enough” to enact reforms.
“If the three authorities — executive, judiciary and legislative — are not able or willing to conduct these reforms decisively, there must be a way to think of a different approach,” she warned at the time.
Pressed by AFP on what the “different approach” could be, Hennis-Plasschaert declined to elaborate, citing “the confidentiality we have with him.”
“The conversation with Grand Ayatollah Sistani is always straightforward, open, and frank, but I cannot go into further detail,” the top diplomat said.
Demonstrators gathering in the main protest camp of Baghdad’s Tahrir (Liberation) Square on Wednesday said her meeting with Sistani helped bolster their crowds.
Hennis-Plasschaert met with protesters in Tahrir last month, even riding in the tuk-tuk rickshaw that has become an icon of the uprising for ferrying wounded protesters to medics.
“They are losing brothers and friends in the streets,” she said of the young protesters she had met.
More than 300 people have died and 15,000 people have been wounded since demonstrations erupted on October 1.
“We are witnessing rising numbers of deaths and injured every day. It’s horrific,” Hennis-Plasschaert said.
The protests initially fractured the political class but it has rallied in recent days to prop up the government of Prime Minister Adel Abdel Mahdi.
Politicians closed ranks following a series of meetings with top Iranian general Qassem Soleimani, an extremely influential figure who often brokers deals among Iraq’s fractured political class.
Hennis-Plasschaert told AFP she did not seek to be a counter-weight to Iranian influence but said she feared that “spoilers” could prevent progress.
“This country unfortunately knows many actors, external, internal, that could act as spoilers (and) undermine the legitimate demands of the people,” she said.