How Trump's Bizarre 'Good Deal!' Letter Could Mean Disaster In Syrian Conflict
A "disturbing" message from Donald Trump to Turkey's president could lock in ongoing conflict and death in Syria, as the U.S. President's behaviour further unravels into the bizarre.
Capping off another strange day in the White House -- in which Trump defended the wife of American diplomat who fled Britain after killing a teenager in a car accident, accused his political opponents of an "unhinged meltdown" and referred to the Middle East as "a lot of sand" -- a letter between the American and Turkish leaders was released.
Trump has been under pressure after pulling U.S. troops out of Syria, paving the way for Turkey's army to carry out a long-mooted incursion across the border to combat Kurdish forces.
The fighting has killed more than 150 civilians, and there are fears that the U.S. withdrawal from the region may allow the resurgence of the ISIS terror group. More than 60 Australian women and children are in refugee camps in Syria, and the federal government has refused to send help to extricate them.
On Thursday morning (AEST) a Fox News journalist tweeted a copy of a letter reportedly sent from Trump to Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, urging the Turkish leader to "work out a good deal!"
"History... will look upon you forever as the devil if good things don't happen," the letter said.
"Don't be a fool! I will call you later."
Many commentators and political experts initially thought the letter was a joke, noting the unconventional use of exclamation marks and colloquial language.
Journalists rushed to confirm the letter's veracity, and later found that it was indeed an official correspondence between the leaders.
Being first reported by a journalist from Trump's favoured news outlet, Fox, it was theorised by many that the letter was leaked to make the president sound tough and decisive on the Turkey-Syria issue over which he has been so heavily criticised.
His sudden decision last week to withdraw American troops, long-acting as a 'buffer' between Syria and Turkey, caught allies and even top American military brass off-guard.
Retired admiral James Stavridis told MSNBC that "everyone was flabbergasted by this" and that "nobody saw it coming". Kurdish forces have slammed America and Trump as "traitors".
The timing of the letter has been seen as potentially damaging to the chances of negotiating a ceasefire in the region.
U.S. vice-president Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo are on their way to Turkey to meet with Erdogan on Thursday, who has already decried the "very big disrespect" shown by American politicians to him.
Soner Cagaptay, Director of the Turkish Research Program at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, said the publication of the letter -- potentially leaked intentionally by the White House -- could damage the chances of a peaceful outcome in Syria, further entrenching conflict and death in the region.
Trump's unpredictable behaviour has also seen desperate Syrian and Kurdish forces turn to Russia for military assistance, with Moscow said to be on the brink of entering negotiations as a mediator in the Middle East.
"It's not our border. We shouldn't be losing lives over it," Trump said on Thursday.
"Syria may have some help with Russia. That's fine. It's a lot of sand. They've got a lot of sand over there so there's a lot of sand that they can play with."
Elsewhere in a tumultuous day in Washington, Trump fired off two bizarre tweets taking aim at his Democratic political opponents, after the House of Representatives voted to condemn his decision to suddenly abandon Syria.
House speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer claimed the president had a "meltdown" over the outcome of the vote -- 354 to 60 in condemnation of the decision, with dozens of Trump's Republicans voting with Democrats -- and cut short a meeting at the White House.
"I think that vote - the size of the vote, more than 2-1 of the Republicans voted to oppose what the president did - probably got to the president. Because he was shaken up by it," Pelosi told reporters.
"And that's why we couldn't continue in the meeting because he was just not relating to the reality of it."
She claimed Trump had said "there are communists involved [in Syria] and you guys might like that."
Later, Trump tweeted two photos of the meeting, one showing Pelosi speaking with a calm expression and her finger raised, claiming she had been "unhinged".
Trump also reportedly called his former Secretary of Defence, decorated military general James Mattis, "the world’s most overrated general" who "wasn't tough enough".
It was the same day the Italian president, Sergio Mattarella, was hosted at the White House. The facial expressions of his translator delighted many online.
All in all, another very normal day at the White House.