Trump Imposes Sanctions on Turkey 10/15 06:09
Targeting Turkey's economy, President Donald Trump announced sanctions aimed
at restraining the Turks' assault against Kurdish fighters and civilians in
Syria -- an assault Turkey began after Trump announced he was moving U.S.
troops out of the way.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Targeting Turkey's economy, President Donald Trump
announced sanctions aimed at restraining the Turks' assault against Kurdish
fighters and civilians in Syria --- an assault Turkey began after Trump
announced he was moving U.S. troops out of the way.
The United States on Monday also called on Turkey to stop the invasion and
declare a cease-fire, and Trump is sending Vice President Mike Pence and
national security adviser Robert O'Brien to Ankara as soon as possible in an
attempt to begin negotiations. Pence said Trump spoke directly to Turkish
leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who promised not to attack the border town of
Kobani, which in 2015 witnessed the Islamic State group's first defeat in a
battle by U.S.-backed Kurdish fighters.
"President Trump communicated to him very clearly that the United States of
America wants Turkey to stop the invasion, implement an immediate cease-fire
and to begin to negotiate with Kurdish forces in Syria to bring an end to the
violence," Pence said.
The Americans were scrambling for Syria's exits, a move criticized at home
and abroad as opening the door to a resurgence of the Islamic State group,
whose violent takeover of Syrian and Iraqi lands five years ago was the reason
American forces went in the first place.
Trump said the approximately 1,000 U.S. troops who had been partnering with
local Kurdish fighters to battle the Islamic State in northern Syria are
leaving the country. They will remain in the Middle East, he said, to "monitor
the situation" and to prevent a revival of IS --- a goal that even Trump's
allies say has become much more difficult as a result of the U.S. pullout.
The Turks began attacks in Syria last week against the Syrian Kurdish
fighters, whom the Turks see as terrorists. On Monday, Syrian government troops
moved north toward the border region, setting up a potential clash with
Trump said Turkey's invasion is "precipitating a humanitarian crisis and
setting conditions for possible war crimes," a reference to reports of
Turkish-backed fighters executing Kurdish fighters on the battlefield.
The Kurdish forces previously allied with the U.S. said they had reached a
deal with President Bashar Assad's government to help them fend off Turkey's
invasion, a move that brings Russian forces deeper into the conflict.
In his sanctions announcement, Trump said he was halting negotiations on a
$100 billion trade deal with Turkey and raising steel tariffs back up to 50%.
Trump also imposed sanctions on three senior Turkish officials and Turkey's
defense and energy ministries.
"I am fully prepared to swiftly destroy Turkey's economy if Turkish leaders
continue down this dangerous and destructive path," Trump said.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the sanctions will hurt an already
weak Turkish economy. Pence said the U.S. will continue to ramp up the
sanctions "unless Turkey is willing to embrace a cease-fire, come to the
negotiating table and end the violence."
American troops consolidated their positions in northern Syria on Monday and
prepared to evacuate equipment in advance of a full withdrawal, a U.S. defense
The official, who was not authorized to be quoted by name, said U.S.
officials were weighing options for a potential future counter-IS campaign,
including the possibility of waging it with a combination of air power and
special operations forces based outside Syria, perhaps in Iraq.
The hurried preparations for a U.S. exit were triggered by Trump's decision
Saturday to expand a limited troop pullout into a complete withdrawal.
Defense Secretary Mark Esper said Monday he would travel to NATO
headquarters in Brussels next week to urge European allies to impose
"diplomatic and economic measures" against Turkey --- a fellow NATO ally ---
for what Esper called Ankara's "egregious" actions.
Esper said Turkey's incursion had created unacceptable risk to U.S. forces
in northern Syria and "we also are at risk of being engulfed in a broader
The only exception to the U.S. withdrawal from Syria is a group of perhaps
200 troops who will remain at a base called Tanf in southern Syria near the
Jordanian border along the strategically important Baghdad-to-Damascus highway.
Those troops work with Syrian opposition forces unrelated to the Kurdish-led
fighters in northern Syria.
Esper said the U.S. withdrawal would be done carefully to protect the troops
and to ensure no U.S. equipment was left behind. He declined to say how long
that might take.
In a series of tweets Monday, Trump defended his gamble that pulling U.S.
forces out of Syria would not weaken U.S. security and credibility. He took
sarcastic swipes at critics who say his Syria withdrawal amounts to a betrayal
of the Kurds and plays into the hands of Russia.
"Anyone who wants to assist Syria in protecting the Kurds is good with me,
whether it is Russia, China, or Napoleon Bonaparte," he wrote. "I hope they all
do great, we are 7,000 miles away!"
Trump has dug in on his decision to pull out the troops, believing it
fulfills a key campaign promise and will be a winning issue in the 2020
election, according to White House officials.
This has effectively ended a five-year effort to partner with Syrian Kurdish
and Arab fighters to ensure a lasting defeat of the Islamic State group.
Hundreds of IS supporters escaped a holding camp amid clashes between invading
Turkish-led forces and Kurdish fighters, and analysts said an IS resurgence
seemed more likely, just months after Trump declared the extremists defeated.
Trump spoke about the IS detainees in a phone call Monday with Kurdish
General Mazloum Kobani. Pence said Mazloum assured the president that Kurdish
forces would continue to support the prisons holding IS fighters.
Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell, normally a staunch Trump
supporter, said he was "gravely concerned" by events in Syria and Trump's
response so far.
Withdrawing U.S. forces from Syria "would re-create the very conditions that
we have worked hard to destroy and invite the resurgence of ISIS," he said in a
statement. "And such a withdrawal would also create a broader power vacuum in
Syria that will be exploited by Iran and Russia, a catastrophic outcome for the
United States' strategic interests."
New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign
Relations Committee, said Trump is weakening America. "To be clear, this
administration's chaotic and haphazard approach to policy by tweet is
endangering the lives of U.S. troops and civilians," Menendez said in a
However, Trump got quick support from Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of
South Carolina, who earlier had lambasted his withdrawal decision as
"shortsighted," ''irresponsible" and "unnerving to its core." Graham said he
was asked to join the president and his team for phone calls with the key
leaders in the conflict.
"President Trump made it clear to President Erdogan this incursion is widely
unpopular in the United States, greatly destabilizing to the region, is putting
in jeopardy our successes against ISIS, and will eventually benefit Iran,"
The Kurds have turned to the Syrian government and Russia for military
assistance, further complicating the battlefield.
The prospect of enhancing the Syrian government's position on the
battlefield and inviting Russia to get more directly involved is seen by
Trump's critics as a major mistake. But he tweeted that it shouldn't matter.
"Others may want to come in and fight for one side or the other," he wrote.