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American troops in Syria may be on the receiving end of an “Ottoman slap” if they don’t abandon a key group of local fighters, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan threatened Tuesday.
“It is clear that those who say ‘we will respond aggressively if you hit us’ have never experienced an Ottoman slap,” Erdogan told his parliament, per local media.
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The Ottoman Empire, based in modern-day Turkey, dominated much of the Middle East and southeastern Europe for more than 600 years. It was broken up by the Allied powers following the First World War. Erdogan's boast was a response to an Army general who warned pro-Turkish forces not to attack a Syrian city held by U.S. and counter-Islamic State coalition forces that the Turks regard as a terrorist threat in their own right. Syrian militias partnered with Turkey wanted to overrun Manbij, where U.S. military advisors train Kurdish and Arab fighters.
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“You hit us, we will respond aggressively,” Lt. Gen. Paul Funk told the pro-Turkish militias, according to the New York Times. “We will defend ourselves.”
Erdogan’s sharp rhetoric comes just days before Secretary of State Rex Tillerson arrives in Ankara...
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