Trump Calls Turkey Big Trading Partner a Day After Threatening to 'Obliterate' Its Economy

Just hours after President Donald Trump threatened to "obliterate" Turkey's economy, he described the country as one of America's biggest and most honest trading partners.

The president's inconsistency was evident between Monday and Tuesday as he reminded his critics that Turkey is a "big trading partner" with the U.S. The president's contradictory words lent credence to Republican Senator Lindsey Graham's claim Monday that Trump's announcement about pulling out U.S. forces from northern Syria, where they are stationed alongside Kurdish forces, was an "impulsive decision."

Dramatically softening his tone, Trump on Tuesday touted Turkey's participation in the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Program, although in July the administration kicked the Turks out of the aircraft program for purchasing Russian S-400 missile defense systems.

Trump's decision to withdraw U.S. forces from northern Syria has been widely labeled a "disaster" by even his staunchest GOP defenders and has also been characterized as "abandoning" the Kurds, who helped take down the Islamic State militant group (ISIS) in Syria. Turkish opposition figure Meral Akensar, head of the Iyi Party, called Trump's move a "diplomatic catastrophe," Reuters reported.

"So many people conveniently forget that Turkey is a big trading partner of the United States, in fact they make the structural steel frame for our F-35 Fighter Jet," Trump tweeted Tuesday morning. "They have also been good to deal with, helping me to save many lives at Idlib Province, and returning, in very good health, at my request, Pastor Brunson, who had many years of a long prison term remaining. Also remember, and importantly, that Turkey is an important member in good standing of NATO. He is coming to the U.S. as my guest on November 13th. #ENDENDLESSWARS."

In September 2018, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said it was not his decision to release the pastor, who had been living in Turkey for over two decades. Andrew Brunson was accused of being involved in a coup against Erdogan, as well as in the opposition movement led by Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen, who lives in exile in the U.S. Before being released soon after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's insistence, Brunson was facing life in prison if convicted of the terrorism charges against him.

Critics of the Trump administration immediately pounced on the overnight foreign policy flip-flop, with The New York Times's Maggie Haberman noting the president's threat against Turkey just one day before.

"Yesterday was a threat to obliterate the Turkish economy. Today Turkey is a big trading partner," Haberman remarked Tuesday.

Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton remarked: "Let us be clear: The president has sided with authoritarian leaders of Turkey and Russia over our loyal allies and America's own interests. His decision is a sickening betrayal both of the Kurds and his oath of office."

On Monday, Trump tweeted aggressively about Turkey potentially wiping out Kurdish forces after the U.S. withdrawal. "As I have stated strongly before, and just to reiterate, if Turkey does anything that I, in my great and unmatched wisdom, consider to be off limits, I will totally destroy and obliterate the Economy of Turkey (I've done before!). They must, with Europe and others, watch over..."

However, on Tuesday the president said: "We may be in the process of leaving Syria, but in no way have we Abandoned the Kurds, who are special people and wonderful fighters. Likewise our relationship with Turkey, a NATO and Trading partner, has been very good. Turkey already has a large Kurdish population..."

Graham was among several critics who lashed out at the president's decision to pull out U.S. forces. "I don't know all the details regarding President Trump's decision in northern Syria. In process of setting up phone call with Secretary [Mike] Pompeo. If press reports are accurate, this is a disaster in the making," he tweeted Monday morning.

On Tuesday, longtime MSNBC Middle East reporter Richard Engel suggested Trump's move was a "green light to Turkey, to go and clear out the Kurds."

Trump and Erdogan Shake Hands
Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and President Donald Trump shake hands before a meeting at the Palace Hotel during the 72nd United Nations General Assembly on September 21, 2017, in New York City. Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images