President Donald Trump said he’ll impose sanctions on Turkey in response to the nation’s advance into Syria, days after he cleared the way for the offensive by pulling American forces from the area.
The penalties will raise steel tariffs on Turkey back to 50%, the level prior to a reduction in May, and the U.S. will halt negotiations over a trade pact, Trump said in a statement on Monday.
Trump also said his administration will sanction current and former Turkish government officials and anyone contributing to Turkey’s “destabilization actions in northeast Syria.” The president said he’ll soon sign an executive order allowing the sanctions to be imposed.
“I am fully prepared to swiftly destroy Turkey’s economy if Turkish leaders continue down this dangerous and destructive path,” Trump said in the statement.
The move is an effort to contain the damage from Trump’s decision to stand aside if Turkey entered northern Syria, essentially giving Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan a green light to carry out the operation. Erdogan says the offensive is necessary to push back Kurdish militants and resettle refugees, but the rapid advance into Syria has drawn international condemnation and accusations of war crimes.
The lira weakened against the U.S. dollar on the news.
Kurds at Risk
Trump’s decision exposed American-allied Kurdish militias to attack, risking a resurgence of Islamic State and a slaughter of the Kurds. Kurdish forces that previously fought alongside the U.S. have warned they may no longer be able to secure camps and prisons holding Islamic State jihadists, including Europeans whose home countries don’t want them back.
Turkey’s cross-border military offensive has resulted in the deaths of hundreds of “terrorists” since it began on Wednesday, according to Turkey’s military.
Before the Trump administration’s announcement, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham sought help from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to impose sanctions on Turkey. The pair was concerned Trump wouldn’t impose strong enough sanctions.
“As we find ourselves in a situation where the President gave a green light to the Turks to bomb and effectively unleashed ISIS, we must have a stronger sanctions package than what the White House is suggesting,” Pelosi tweeted Monday.
Trump’s statement said the U.S. won’t tolerate the “indiscriminate targeting of civilians, destruction of civilian infrastructure, and targeting of ethnic or religious minorities.”
The president said “a small footprint” of U.S. forces will remain at Al-Tanf Garrison in southern Syria to fight Islamic State.
(Updates with Trump comment from statement in fourth paragraph.)