Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan stopped an Oval Office meeting in its tracks to whip out an iPad and show President Donald Trump a propaganda film that portrayed the Kurds as terrorists.
Republican senators in the room on Wednesday pushed back to defend the Kurds — longtime U.S. allies abandoned by Trump’s decision to pull troops from northern Syria in October — as the commander-in-chief mostly sat back and played “traffic cop”, Axios reported. Sources in the room told Axios the video was “unpersuasive” and “surreal.”
The video depicts the leader of the Syrian Democratic Forces as a terrorist, and it does it in truly odd fashion, seemingly playing on Trump’s need for a straightforward narrative.
It’s got all the hallmarks of propaganda: Violent images, oddly cinematic narration, flashy cuts and a dramatic drumbeat as a voice tells you exactly what to think. At one point, the narrator even derisively highlights the fact that the Kurdish commander Mazloum Abdi dares to have a “verified Twitter account.”
It took almost no time for Turkey to take military action against the Kurds once Trump pulled American troops. South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, who railed against Trump’s decision to pull the troops, was one of the lawmakers who joined Trump and Erdoğan in the Oval Office. He was unimpressed by the video.
After the video ended, Graham reportedly asked Erdoğan, “Well, do you want me to go get the Kurds to make one about what you've done?"
Erdoğan also reportedly took exception to Graham saying Turkey had invaded Syria.
"The Turkish narrative that they have done more to destroy ISIS, I rejected forcefully, and I let Turkey know that 10,000 [Syrian Democratic Forces] fighters, mostly Kurds, suffered, died or injured, in the fight against ISIS, and America will not forget that and will not abandon them,” he told Axios in an interview.
The Kurds were a key U.S. partner in the fight against ISIS, but since the troop withdrawal, Trump has criticized them. “Syria’s friendly with the Kurds. The Kurds are very well protected,” he said at a press conference not long after the withdrawal. “Plus, they know how to fight. And, by the way, they’re no angels.”
While Republican leadership might have balked at the idea of embracing the Turkish president this week, Trump had no such qualms.
“Turkey, as everyone knows, is a great NATO ally,” Trump said at a joint press conference on Wednesday. "I'm a big fan [of Erdogan].”
Cover: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaks at a news conference alongside President Donald Trump in the East Room of the White House, Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)