Donald Trump has issued a strange, rambling defence of his controversial decision to green light Turkey’s invasion of Syria, insisting he had consulted with everyone before acting and that Britain was among those parties “thrilled by the decision.
Just hours after the White House announced, in what represented a major policy shift in the Middle East, that it was withdrawing US troops from part of northern Syria ahead of a planned Turkish military operation, the president claimed more people supported the decision than disagreed.
He said the UK was among those parties who agreed with the policy shift, which critics say opens the door to Turkey to attack Kurdish forces previously backed by the West.
“A lot of people have their opinion. I could name many who are extremely thrilled that we’re coming home ,” he said at the White House.
“The UK is very thrilled at this decision. As you know, they have soldiers over there also. And others. But many people agree with it very strongly. I understand both sides of it very well.”
The decision to permit Turkey to roll into northern Syria and effectively abandon the the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which Ankara considers terrorists because of their support for a banned Kurdish separatist organisation inside Turkey, was widely criticised by Democrats and Republicans. It was also condemned in the region, by those who feared it could trigger more bloodshed.
Senator Lindsey Graham, usually a staunch Trump ally, called the decision “impulsive”, and suggested it would undo “all the gains we've made [and] throw the region into further chaos”.
He added: “I hope I'm making myself clear how shortsighted and irresponsible this decision is in my view.”
Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell said: “A precipitous withdrawal of US forces from Syria would only benefit Russia, Iran, and the Assad regime and increase the risk of reorganisation by Isis.”
Nikki Haley, Mr Trump’s former ambassador to the United Nations, also issued a condemnation of the decision, using social media.
“We must always have the backs of our allies, if we expect them to have our back,” she tweeted. “The Kurds were instrumental in our successful fight against Isis in Syria. Leaving them to die is a big mistake #TurkeyIsNotOurFriend.”