Trump says Turkey can overrun Northern Syria enclave held by America's Kurdish allies

Trump and Turkey's Erdogan
(Image credit: Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images)

On Sunday, President Trump and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan spoke by phone and discussed a "safe zone" in northeastern Syria the two countries had agreed to create, the Turkish government said, expressing frustration with the pace of U.S. cooperation. Erdogan also said he accepted Trump's invitation to visit the White House in November. On Saturday, Erdogan said a Turkish military incursion into northeastern Syria was "imminent."

Turkey has threatened to invade the area before, hoping to resettle up to two million Syrian refugees and clear the region of the Kurdish YPG militia, which halted the Islamic State's advance then defeated ISIS with U.S. air support. The presence of U.S. troops, stationed with the allied YPG-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), has held Ankara back. On Sunday night, Trump apparently gave Erdogan the green light to invade.

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Trump said the move will save America some money, but it's not clear what else he asked from Erdogan in exchange for effectively handing him northeastern Syria. The YPG is currently holding the ISIS prisoners Trump ceded to Turkey. Trump agreed to withdraw all U.S. forces from Syria in late 2018, after speaking with Erdogan, but then reversed himself after pushback from advisers and Republican allies concerned that Turkey would slaughter America's Kurdish allies.

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The last time Erdogan was in Washington to visit Trump, in 2017, his bodyguards assaulted Kurdish protesters, Axios reminds us. The U.S. indicted 15 of the bodyguards but dropped the charges in March 2018 before a meeting between Erdogan and Rex Tillerson, Trump's first secretary of state.

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Peter Weber

Peter Weber is a senior editor at, and has handled the editorial night shift since the website launched in 2008. A graduate of Northwestern University, Peter has worked at Facts on File and The New York Times Magazine. He speaks Spanish and Italian and plays bass and rhythm cello in an Austin rock band. Follow him on Twitter.