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In 2016, Hillary Clinton Warned Trump Might Abandon Kurd Allies Over Turkish Business Interests

Hillary Clinton raised concerns in 2016 that Donald Trump's business ties in Turkey could create conflicts of interest in foreign policy. Trump Towers Istanbul photo via the Trump Organization; Hillary Clinton photo courtesy Barbara McKinney/Hillary for America.

The national press spent much of September 2016 breathlessly reporting on Hillary Clinton’s every cough, practically begging readers and viewers to ponder whether she might drop dead before Election Day. Meanwhile, Clinton was thinking over questions she had about Donald Trump’s business dealings in foreign countries, like Iran and Turkey.

In a tweet thread that garnered relatively little attention in 2016, the Democratic nominee for president shared a Newsweek article about Trump’s foreign dealings by Kurt Eichenwald and posted a series of followup tweets with her own thoughts and questions.

In one tweet, she shared a screenshot in which she singled out two paragraphs from the Eichenwald piece, highlighting a section she found especially concerning—one in which the author noted that Trump, whose numerous business dealings in Turkey include two Trump Towers in Istanbul, Turkey, “would be in direct financial and political conflict with Turkey from the moment he was sworn into office.”

“When faced with the prospect of losing the millions of dollars that flow into the Trump Organization each year from that Istanbul property, what position would President Trump take on the important issues involving Turkish-American relations, including the country’s role in the fight against ISIS?” the highlighted portion reads.

The second paragraph in Clinton’s tweeted screenshot poses another question:

“Turkey is at war with the Kurds, America’s allies in the fight against ISIS in Syria. Kurdish insurgent groups are in armed conflict with Turkey, demanding an independent Kurdistan. If Turkey cuts off the Trump Organization’s cash flow from Istanbul, will Trump, who has shown many times how petty and impulsive he can be, allow that to influence how the U.S. juggles the interests of these two critical allies?”

“Given that you’ve already questioned our commitments to NATO allies, what is your answer to this?” Clinton asked in the Sept. 14, 2016 tweet.

This past weekend, America’s foreign policy apparatus and even Trump’s allies were left flabbergasted when the president, seemingly on a whim just hours after a phone call with Turkish dictator Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, decided to immediately pull U.S. forces out of a part of Syria where they had been stationed alongside Kurdish allies. Trump gave President Erdoğan, who refers to the U.S.-allied Syrian Kurds as “terrorists” to justify waging war against them, permission to go into the area—fulfilling a wish of both the Turkish president and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

With the U.S. out of the area, by Wednesday Erdoğan’s forces had crossed into the Kurdish-held areas of Syria and begun launching attacks. Trump’s decision, some fear, will end in a Turkish-inflicted genocide against allies who have fought ISIS with U.S. support for five years now. The conflict also risks creating a rift in NATO, an international alliance that counts both Turkey and the U.S. as members. Putin has long dreamed of undermining NATO.

“Donald Trump is not a Commander-in-Chief,” Brett McGurk, the administration’s former special envoy on ISIS, tweeted after the White House announced Trump’s decision. “He makes impulsive decisions with no knowledge or deliberation. He sends military personnel into harm’s way with no backing. He blusters and then leaves our allies exposed when adversaries call his bluff or he confronts a hard phone call.”

The nature of Erdoğan’s phone call with Trump remains a mystery. But even before Clinton’s old tweet resurfaced, some had speculated that Trump’s business dealings with Turkey might be a factor, though there is currently no direct evidence of any kind of quid pro quo—unlike when it comes to Trump’s Ukraine scandal.

In a 2012 tweet, Ivanka Trump thanked Erdoğan for making an appearance at the Trump Towers Istanbul launch.

“Thank you Prime Minister Erdoğan for joining us yesterday to celebrate the launch of #TrumpTowers Istanbul,” the then-reality TV star’s daughter wrote.

In late November 2016, Politico wrote that the Turkish government was “salivating” over Trump’s election. Erdoğan had feared the prospect of a President Hillary Clinton—not least because she said she would considering arming the Kurds and doing more to help protect them against Turkish aggression.

In an interview with PBS on Tuesday, Clinton called Trump’s actions in Syria a “betrayal” of America’s Kurdish allies—and warned that the move could lead to a resurgent Islamic State.

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