The White House is considering sanctions on Turkey after its decision to attack US-allied Kurds in northern Syria.
Critics have accused the Trump Administration of betraying the Kurds, as Turkey’s invasion had been planned before Trump decided to pull US troops from the region.
The way Trump sees it, Turkey was bound to move against the Kurds eventually and the US no longer has a reason to be there; best to remove our troops now before they end up killed in a fight that started decades ago.
“We are not going into another war between people who have been fighting with each other for 200 years,” said Trump. “Europe had a chance to get their ISIS prisoners, but didn’t want the cost. ‘Let the USA pay,’ they said.’”
On Friday, more than 900 supporters of ISIS escaped a detention camp in Syria as Turkey attacked areas within hundreds of feet of departing US troops. Trump suggested the Kurds released the captives on purpose in an attempt to lure US soldiers back to the region.
Taking advantage of the chaos, ISIS militants set off two car bombs.
According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, some 64 civilians have died in the fighting. At least 130,000 civilians have been forced to evacuate. Kurdish leaders have already turned to Russia in a desperate appeal for protection.
“We are witnesses ethnic cleansing in Syria by Turkey, the destruction of a reliable ally in the Kurds, and the reemergence of ISIS,” tweeted Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), a sometimes-ally of the president.
Last week, Trump promised to “destroy” the Turkish economy if the nation does anything he considers “off limits.” Anticipating trouble, the Treasury prepared orders to authorize sanctions on the Turkish government and its affiliates.
Now, lawmakers from both sides are scrambling for a solution that will punish Turkey and support the Kurds.
“I will be working across party lines in a bicameral fashion to draft sanctions and move quickly, appreciating President Trump’s willingness to work with the Congress,” tweeted Graham.
Graham, alongside Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), is working on a harsh sanctions package that would affect high-ranking Turkish officials – including the president – until Turkey can prove it has withdrawn from Syria.
“President Erdogan and his regime must face serious consequences for mercilessly attacking our Kurdish allies in northern Syria, who incurred thousands of casualties in the fight against ISIS and helped us protect the homeland,” argues Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WO), who has introduced a companion measure in the House. “If Turkey wants to be treated like an ally, it must begin behaving like one.”
Others worry that sanctions won’t make a difference.
“We face threats like economic sanctions and arms embargoes,” said President Erdogan on Sunday. “But those who think they can make Turkey bow with these threats are seriously mistaken.”
Trump’s strategy is massively unpopular, but if he had left troops in Syria and Turkey had killed some of them, this would be a much larger war.
To keep Turkey from attacking the Kurds, we would have needed to maintain a presence in Syria indefinitely.
And by leaving Turkey responsible for ISIS, with sanctions hanging over them if they overstep, it takes US troops out of danger and establishes a substitute to maintain stability.
Editor’s Note: This is one where Punching Bag commentator Larry Horist and I disagree. Larry believes that we should have stuck with our allies, and he certainly has a good point. But an alliance is not a suicide pact, and we cannot have the Kurds determining where U.S. forces are deployed.
Update: Looks like the Kurds have decided to team up with Syria’s Assad.