To the editor:
Recently, much has been made about President Trump’s announcement on Sunday, Oct. 6, to pull U.S. troops from their emplacement near the border between Turkey and Northern Syria. These troops had served as a buffer to thwart a Turkish attack against the Kurds, who had valiantly fought shoulder-to-shoulder with U.S. troops against ISIS. Their removal cleared the way for a Turkish invasion and potential slaughter of the Kurds, whom Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan claims are terrorists.
The response from Congress and the media was swift. From both sides of the aisle, nearly every public figure condemned the decision as a despicable stab in the back to a loyal U.S. ally.
But why did Trump do it? The commentators universally characterized the decision as “rash,” “impulsive” and “reckless.” The complaint is that Trump was on the phone with Erdogan, who made some comments to him, and a few minutes later Trump decided to make his announcement. Thus, the problem with the president is that he’s thoughtless and doesn’t think things through.
I believe that characterization is highly inaccurate, and glosses over a much deeper and more serious concern.
President Trump is highly calculating. He knows exactly what he’s doing, and he does it deliberately. But why? Why take actions that offend even his own Republican minions in Congress?
It’s in Trump’s business interests to keep President Erdogan happy. Opened in 2012, Trump Towers Istanbul was the very first Trump Tower development built in Europe. The complex includes an office tower and a conjoined residential tower, consisting of more than 200 residences. The complex also holds a shopping mall with some 80 shops and a multiplex cinema.
According to Trump’s financial disclosure filings, our president earns somewhere between $100,001 and $1 million annually in licensing fees from Trump Towers Istanbul.
As The Los Angeles Times reported, in December 2015 Trump stated in a radio interview that he had a “conflict of interest” in dealing with Turkey because of his property, saying, “I have a little conflict of interest, because I have a major, major building in Istanbul... It’s called Trump Towers. Two towers, instead of one. Not the usual one, it’s two. And I’ve gotten to know Turkey very well.”
In June 2016, when President Trump announced his Muslim ban, President Erdogan pushed back, saying, “Trump has no tolerance for Muslims living in the U.S. And on top of that they used a brand in Istanbul with his name. The ones who put that brand on their building should immediately remove it.”
So, given an opportunity to do a big favor for Turkey’s dictator, of course Trump was more than happy to oblige, and in return ease the pressure on the Trump brand. The cost? The international reputation of the United States and the lives of thousands of Kurds. But if you’re Donald Trump, your real estate business comes before everything else.
Even better for Trump, his decision has a double benefit: His Russian patron, Vladimir Putin, could not be more delighted. A U.S. pullout will remove Russia’s only military equal from the contest to shape Syria’s future. The Kurds are now under pressure to make a deal with the Russians, who with Iran are poised to become the big power players in the region.
As Americans, we can only hope that the coming impeachment inquiry will reveal, for all to see, the unprecedented depths of our president’s corruption.