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.

Abdullah Ayasun
4 min readOct 16, 2019


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.



Abdullah Ayasun

New York-based journalist and writer. Columbia School of Journalism. 2023 White House Correspondents' Association Scholar. Twitter: @abyasun