Turkish President Erdogan showed anti-Kurdish propaganda film during Oval Office meeting — and even some pro-Trump Republicans weren’t happy
Turkey, once the most liberal democracy in the Islamic world, has taken a much more authoritarian turn under President
Recep Tayyip Erdoğan — and with President Donald Trump having withdrawn U.S. troops from northeastern Syria, critics of the decision have voiced major concerns over how Erdoğan is treating the United States’ Kurdish allies in that region. Some of those concerns, according to Axios, were voiced on Wednesday, when Erdoğan visited the Oval Office in Washington, D.C. and showed several prominent Republicans an anti-Kurdish propaganda film.
When Erdoğan — according to Axios’ sources — met with Trump and five GOP senators (including Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas and Sen. Rick Scott of Florida) he pulled out his iPad and showed the Republicans a film that depicted Kurds as terrorists. Axios’ Jonathan Swan reports that the Turkish president “apparently thought he could sway these senators by forcing them to watch a clunky propaganda film,” noting that the Oval Office visit came at a time when Erdoğan “is trying to avoid sanctions over the purchase of a Russian missile defense system.”
Although Graham is almost always a Trump defender, he has been vehemently critical of the president’s decision to remove U.S. troops from northeastern Syria — and the propaganda film Erdoğan showed in the Oval Office didn’t convince Graham that the U.S. should have abandoned its Kurdish allies. According to one of Axios’ sources, Graham told Erdoğan, “Well, do you want me to go get the Kurds to make one about what you’ve done?”
Graham was referring to the actions of Turkish forces in northeastern Syria following the withdrawal of U.S. troops.
Swan reports, “Erdoğan got into a heated back-and-forth with Graham over Turkey’s recent invasion of Syria, according to four sources familiar with the meeting. A source in the room said Erdoğan took exception to Graham using the word ‘invasion’ and that Graham also rebutted Erdoğan when he claimed that Turkey had fought ISIS.”
ISIS stands for Islamic State, Iraq and Syria, the vicious terrorist organization that U.S. troops battled in northeastern Syria with the help of its Kurdish allies and the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).
Interviewed by Axios on Wednesday night, Graham explained, “the Turkish narrative that they have done more to destroy ISIS, I rejected forcefully — and I let Turkey know that 10,000 SDF fighters, mostly Kurds, suffered, died or (were) injured, in the fight against ISIS. And America will not forget that and will not abandon them.”
Scott, according to one of Axios’ sources, told Erdoğan during the meeting that he wanted to know “why Turkey should enjoy the protections of NATO when they’re cozying up to Russia.”
In an official statement issued after the Oval Office meeting, Cruz asserted, “while our alliance with Turkey is important to maintaining U.S. national security interests, Turkey’s assault against our Kurdish allies — who have a long history of standing with America against our enemies — is absolutely unacceptable.”
Cruz went on to say that during the meeting, he “made clear to President Erdoğan that so long as Turkey continues to procure or deploy the S-400 air defense system from Russia, the U.S. will not sell F-35 fighter jets to Turkey.”