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Dec 24 2018

Ex-NATO Commander Wesley Clark: Did Erdoğan blackmail Trump?

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan might have blackmailed U.S. President Donald Trump to withdraw U.S. forces out of Syria, retired U.S. Army general and former NATO Supreme Allied Commander Wesley Clark said during a CNN live interview on Monday.

Trump's abrupt decision to move U.S. forces immediately from Syria stunned the world, creating backlash specifically from Kurdish communities across the world. Trump's senior aides stated that the decision was made following a phone call between Trump and Erdoğan on December 14th, and declared a day after the U.S. State Department approved the sale of $3.5 billion in patriots missiles. 

“There doesn’t seem to be any strategic rationale for the decision. And if there’s no strategic rationale for the decision then you have to ask, why was the decision made? People around the world are asking this and some of our friends and our allies in the Middle East are asking, did Erdoğan blackmail the president? Was there a payoff is or something? Why would a guy make a decision like this? Because all the recommendations were against it." the former NATO commander said on CNN's "New Day."

In a tweet late Sunday night, the president claimed he’s received assurance from Erdoğan that Turkish forces will “eradicate” what remains of ISIS in Syria.

U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi Nancy Pelosi has raised concerns that President Donald Trump‘s decision to pull U.S. troops out of Syria was linked to the prosecution of his former security adviser, Michael Flynn, over his work as a foreign agent last week.

“All Americans should be concerned that this hasty announcement was made on the day after sentencing in criminal proceedings began against ... Flynn, who admitted that he was a registered foreign agent for a country with clear interests in the Syrian conflict,” Pelosi said. Pelosi is expected to be speaker of the House within weeks.

Flynn has admitted  failing to register his work as a lobbyist for Turkey, Two of Flynn’s associates, including Turkish businessman Ekim Alptekin, have also been charged with with illegally lobbying for Turkey in Ankara’s campaign to extradite U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gülen, who Ankara accuses of orchestrating the July 2016 coup attempt. Gülen denies charges, Alptekin denies the Turkish government's involvement with the scheme and claims to have paid over half a million dollars out of his pockets to get Gülen back to Turkey. 

‘’We must also ask why the president did not make this decision in the context of advancing peace negotiations. Syrian families caught in the middle of this conflict continue to endure heartbreaking horrors every day,’’ Pelosi went on to say, adding, “When we take the gavel, our Democratic majority will uphold the Congress’ constitutional oversight responsibilities to ensure that the president’s decisions advance our national security interests, not his personal or political objectives.”