Erdoğan is calling Trump’s bluff on Syria after Turkish army moves in

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan called President Donald Trump’s bluff a week ago when he said in a phone call his military would enter Syria to battle Kurdish militants, Axios news website reported.

Erdoğan’s decision has plunged the Middle East and Trump’s political standing in Washington D.C. into crisis, Axios’ Jonathan Swan said. When Erdoğan threatened to invade on the phone call, Trump told Erdoğan he would pull U.S. troops from the border, paving the way for the military operation.

Now Trump has alienated and blindsided key allies including Republican lawmakers and the Christian right, Swan said.

Trump is now threatening economic sanctions against Turkey in cooperation with U.S. lawmakers. But Erdoğan has said his government is prepared for such an eventuality. Now the question is, will Trump enact those threats?

Trump had been calling Erdoğan’s own bluff for more than two years, Swan said, citing six sources with direct knowledge of the situation.

Trump would tell Erdoğan that if he wanted to invade Syria he would have to own whatever mess ensued, the sources said, according to Swan. Erdoğan would previously demur when Trump said he would also have to take care of Islamic State (ISIS) and manage international condemnation, trouble from Capitol Hill, and the quagmire with the Kurds.

Though Erdoğan was talking big, he thought Trump would restrain him, a U.S. official familiar with the situation told Axios' Margaret Talev.

Erdoğan did not expect — or want — a 30-km-deep buffer zone in Syria’s north, which Turkish forces are allegedly creating, rather he assumed that his demand would be to negotiate something smaller, Axios said.

The U.S. official said Erdoğan may now be in over his head and facing global condemnation and sanctions. But the Turkish president got so far extended politically inside Turkey that he had little choice other than to move forward with the operation, the official said.