In a Letter to Erdogan, Trump Says ‘Don’t Be Fool’

In a letter that rocked social media, President Trump called on his Turkish counterpart not to be a tough man. “Don’t be a fool,” he says in an undiplomatic address.

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U.S. President Donald J. Trump and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan

As the Turkish-U.S. relations endure a widening chasm over an unfolding Turkish military offensive against a U.S. ally in northern Syria, President Donald J. Trump sent a letter to his Turkish counterpart, calling on him “not to be a fool.”

The letter, as much as the wording in it, took entire social media off balance, with people agonizing to make sense of the undiplomatic nature of Trump’s language.

“Don’t be a tough guy. Don’t be a fool!” Trump says in his warning to Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The content of the letter, no less than the context that generated it, was bewildering, to say the least.

The relationship between the two NATO allies slid into a deepening rift after Turkey rebuffed repeated warnings from Washington over an assault against U.S. ally, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), in northern Syria. But what paved the way for the offensive last week was Trump’s acquiescence to the demands of President Erdogan to create a safe zone, a scheme that unwittingly became synonymous with wiping out the Kurdish influence near the Turkish-Syrian border. In a startling move, the U.S. leader decided to pull the U.S. forces out of the “immediate area” of the Turkish operation.

His latest withdrawal produced a political firestorm in Washington, D.C. After facing a mounting public and political pressure, Trump on Monday felt impelled to slap Turkey with new tariffs on steel imports and suspended talks for a free trade deal.

But the two leaders undeniably enjoy cordial personal ties, regardless of the larger context that governs the multi-faceted dual relationship that is frequently tested by thorny and intractable issues.

Yet, for whatever his efforts to strike a balance between his personal bond with Erdogan and the U.S. political community that urges him to take a bold stance against Turkey’s intrusion to Syria, Trump’s every move begets new reaction, good and bad.

His latest letter has become as much a source of mockery as sharp criticism over the simplicity that prompts many people to wonder whether someone with only an elementary school background penned it down.

“This is why I don’t have 12-year-olds write my letters to heads of state for me,” a Twitter user reacted to the letter.

The pretense to appear bold against Erdogan does not make Trump’s letter any more palatable to the U.S. community, supporters or discontents.

“Let me rephrase. WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK?” writer Rick Wilson wrote on Twitter, reflecting on the letter to indicate his bafflement.

Preet Bharara, former U.S. Attorney in New York, expressed his surprise as well.

In the letter, Trump, the author of the Art of the Deal, starts with an offer: “Dear Mr. President: Let’s work out a good deal!”

This introduction to his undiplomatic letter reveals a Trumpian mindset driven by a novel quest for new deals, diplomatic or business, political or personal.

Then he continues to expound on what would await if Turkey’s president fails to heed his offer, call and eventual warning. “Don’t let the world down,” he says.

The most striking part, as it can be seen in the leaked copy of the letter whose authenticity has been confirmed by the White House, comes at the end. Trump, lacking in any scruples over the wording, bluntly warns his Turkish counterpart. “Don’t be a tough guy. Don’t be a fool!”

“I will call you later,” he concludes the letter.

As the entire social media was swept up by a combined sense of bemusement, shock and befuddlement, Trump asserted his unyielding position with regard to the recent developments in northern Syria. He contended that the “ongoing conflict was “between Turkey and Syria” rather than among “Turkey and Syria and the United States,” according to the Washington Post.

In a press conference alongside visiting Italian President Sergio Mattarella on Wednesday, Trump once again revealed his detached approach to the Middle Eastern affairs.

“They’re no angels. They’re no angels. Go back and take a look,” the president said. “There’s a lot of sand they can play with. It’s possibly never going to be very stable.”

His letter elicited an immediate reaction from the Turkish public and media. Former Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said the Turkish nation, in the personality of President Erdogan, has been insulted. He called for the cancellation of the looming Pence-Erdogan meeting if there is no apology issued from the American side.

Virginia-based journalist and writer. Politics, culture, art, and technology. American political affairs, Turkey, the MidEast, and beyond. Twitter: @abyasun

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