President Donald Trump imposed sanctions on Turkey on Monday and demanded the NATO ally stop a military incursion in northeast Syria that is rapidly reshaping the battlefield of the world’s deadliest ongoing war.
The sanctions will rally the Turkish people around President Tayyip Erdogan.
Vice President Mike Pence told reporters:
The United States of America simply is not going to tolerate Turkey’s invasion in Syria any further. We are calling on Turkey to stand down, end the violence and come to the negotiating table.
Trump also announced plans to reimpose steel tariffs on Turkey. He also immediately halted negotiations on a $100 billion trade deal.
TOO LITTLE, TOO LATE
The move was quickly criticized as too little, too late by the top Democrat in Congress.
U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi said:
His announcement of a package of sanctions against Turkey falls very short of reversing that humanitarian disaster.
Turkey aims to neutralize the Kurdish YPG militia, the main element of Washington’s Kurdish-led ally, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). The SDF helped the U.S. dismantle the jihadist “caliphate” set up by Islamic State militants in Syria.
Ankara regards the YPG as a terrorist group aligned with Kurdish insurgents in Turkey.
ASSAD MOVES INTO KURDISH AREAS
Russia-backed Syrian forces on Monday took rapid advantage of the abrupt U.S. retreat in Syria to deploy deep inside territory held by U.S.-backed Kurdish forces south of the Turkish frontier. Washington had announced plans for a full withdrawal from northern Syria less than 24 hours earlier.
Washington’s Kurdish former allies said they invited in the government troops as an emergency step to help fend off the Turkish assault. The Kurds call Trump’s Syria exit a betrayal.
Assad will now face Turkish armed forces along a new front line hundreds of miles (km) long. The Syrian army, weakened by almost nine years of a Syrian war, needs to tread carefully against a powerful Turkish army. Russia and Iran risk opening a larger regional war if they help Assad fight the Turks.