On Tuesday, the United States slapped sanctions on Turkey after it demanded an end to its dangerous incursion against Syrian Kurdish fighters. Its NATO partner was accused of putting civilians at risk and allowing the release of ISIS extremists.
Just a few hours ago, the regime troops were withdrawn by Trump for the first time in years to parts of northeastern Syria, invited by Kurdish fighters desperate for protection as the United States pulls out.
US President Donald Trump took an exceptional move against a nation that is officially a US ally as he faces mounting condemnation at home, where even usually supportive lawmakers accuse him of rejecting Kurds who had initiated the battle against the ISIS group.
Trump said in a statement, “I am fully prepared to swiftly destroy Turkey’s economy if Turkish leaders continue down this dangerous and destructive path.” Recently, the US President had promoted his friendship with Erdogan.
The Treasury announced that it was imposing sanctions on Turkey’s defense, interior and energy ministers, freezing their US assets and making US transactions with them a crime. Meanwhile, Vice President Mike Pence stated that he will shortly travel to Turkey and that he had a telephonic conversation with Erdogan on Tuesday to insist Turkey end the operation.
Pence told reporters at the White House, “The president of the United States called on the president of Turkey to stop the invasion, to enact an immediate ceasefire and to begin negotiations with Kurdish forces in Syria.”
As one of the most biting reprisal, Trump said, he was ending talks on a US-Turkey trade deal he valued at $100 billion and reimposing tariffs of 50 percent of Turkish steel. Last year, the US has slapped the half sanctions on Turkey to win the release of an evangelical pastor whose detention had stirred up Trump’s base.
Defense Secretary Mark Esper indicated an escalating rift in relations and said he would arrive in Brussels next week to ask NATO allies to punish Turkey over the incursion. NATO has long been observed as keeping Turkey in the Western orbit. However, earlier this year, Erdogan inflamed the US by buying the major S-400 missile defense system from Russia.
Erdogan is determined to defeat the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, which Erdogan links to separatist militants inside Turkey. Turkey is interested in forming a roughly 30-km (20-mile) buffer zone along its border to keep Kurdish forces at bay and also to send back some of the 3.6 million Syrian refugees on its soil.
Esper, the US defense chief, said Turkey’s incursion had “resulted in the release of many dangerous ISIS detainees,” although Erdogan accused Kurdish forces of deliberately freeing jihadists to “fuel chaos.”
Trump has also pondered that the Kurds may be releasing prisoners to keep the US engaged. Trump wrote on Twitter, “Anyone who wants to assist Syria in protecting the Kurds is good with me, whether it is Russia, China, or Napoleon Bonaparte. I hope they all do great, we are 7,000 miles away!”