Donald Trump, according to a CNN investigative report published on Sunday, made his announcement that he would order a full withdrawal of the United States military forces from Syria after a phone call with Turkey’s President Recep Erdogan, in which the Turkish strongman repeatedly peppered Trump with what he said were reasons the U.S. troops should leave, prompting Trump to simply declare, “OK, it’s all yours. We are done.”
While Erdogan reportedly promised Trump that Turkish troops would “finish off” the ISIS fighters in the region, in fact, according to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, Erdogan’s true motivation was his desire to attack and subjugate the Kurdish population near the Turkish-Syrian border. The Kurds there have been staunch U.S. allies in the war against ISIS and have scored many of the most significant battlefield victories against the terror group that had attempted to establish its own Islamic “caliphate” within Syria.
Erdogan said on Friday that Turkey will soon launch a major military operation against the Kurds, who have declared their own autonomous state, according to the Middle East Eye news site. With U.S. troops in the region, the planned Turkish operation would have put Turkish and American forces, who are NATO allies, against each other.
So why did Trump accede to Erdogan’s demands for a U.S. pullout from Syria? The reasons remain unclear, but four months before Trump made his sudden decision, a major political party in Syria called for Erdogan’s government to seize the twin Trump Towers Istanbul skyscrapers, according to a report by the Turkish newspaper Hurriyet Daily News.
The call to seize the Trump Towers Istanbul came from Turkey’s İYİ Party — or “Good Party,” in English — which implored Erdogan to seize the buildings as retaliation for U.S. sanctions against two top officials in Erdogan’s regime, who were accused of human rights violations, according to an account in Britain’s Express newspaper.
Erdogan did not order the buildings seized, and whether there is any connection between the threat and Trump’s acquiescent response to Erdogan’s demand to remove U.S. troops from Syria remains unclear. The buildings were not built by the Trump Organization and Trump does not own them. Instead, according to the financial magazine Forbes, the complex is owned by the Turkish conglomerate Dogan Holding, which also owned the Hurriyet Daily News for four decades, finally selling the paper in April.
According to research by the New York real estate news site the Real Deal between January of 2015 and June of 2015, Trump pulled in as much as $5 million simply by licensing his name to the Dogan group for the Trump Towers Istanbul complex. But the value of Trump’s name in Turkey appears to have dropped. In his latest financial disclosure form filed earlier this year and which covers 2017, Trump reported “between $100,000 and $1 million” in licensing income from Trump Towers Istanbul, according to Forbes.