House Foreign Affairs leaders to introduce sanctions bill against Turkey

Aaron Schwartz

The Democratic chairman and ranking Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee said Friday they will introduce legislation to slap sanctions on Turkey in response to its offensive against Kurdish forces in northeastern Syria. 

The bipartisan bill would sanction officials involved in Ankara’s offensive and banks involved in the defense sector until Turkey ends its military operations in Syria.

The legislation would also mandate the White House to put additional sanctions on Turkey for its purchase of Russian made S-400 missile systems and prohibit American arms exports to the Turkish military, among other things.

{mosads}“I strongly condemn both President Erdoğan’s decision to attack America’s partners in Syria and President Trump’s decision to step back and let it happen. The Turkish assault on the Syrian Kurds is a gift to Russia, Iran, and ISIS, and a blow to our national security interests,” said Chairman Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.). 

“Turkey’s military operation has already resulted in civilian casualties and threatens global security by creating conditions that will enable an ISIS resurgence. It must stop its incursion immediately,” added ranking Republican Rep. Michael McCaul (Texas). “The purpose of our bill is simple: it compels those individuals and institutions in Turkey that are carrying out this deadly and counterproductive offensive to withdraw.”

The Turkish operation has drawn harsh rebukes from lawmakers on Capitol Hill, who warn that the offensive is meant to eliminate Kurdish forces that allied with the U.S. in the fight against ISIS. Ankara has accused the groups of being linked to an anti-Turkish insurgency. 

Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) announced earlier this week that they too have reached an agreement on new sanctions against Turkey that would target any assets of Turkish leadership, including Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, within U.S. jurisdiction.

The Senate bill would also take aim at Turkey’s energy sector and military, including sanctions against “any foreign person who sells or provides financial, material, or technological support or knowingly does a transaction with Turkish military.”

Underscoring the tensions between the U.S. and Turkey over the operation, the Pentagon announced Friday that Special Forces troops stationed in Syria came under artillery fire from Turkey. No troops were injured, but the Pentagon warned Turkey of any actions that “could result in immediate defensive action.”

Trump is facing bipartisan rebukes in Washington over his decision to remove U.S. troops from northeastern Syria ahead of the Turkish operation, which lawmakers and analysts said removed the chief deterrent for the offensive.

Graham, typically a staunch Trump ally and defense hawk, said the decision is a “disaster in the making” that “ensures [an] ISIS comeback” and “will be a stain on America’s honor for abandoning the Kurds.” 

Trump dismissed Graham’s concerns this week and indicated that he would be open to backing additional sanctions. 

“I think Lindsey would like to stay there for the next 200 years and maybe add a couple a hundred of thousand people every place, but I disagree with Lindsey on that,” Trump told reporters at the White House Wednesday. “But I will tell you that I do agree on sanctions, but I actually think much tougher than sanctions if [Erdoğan] doesn’t do it in as humane a way as possible.”

Tags Chris Van Hollen Donald Trump Eliot Engel Lindsey Graham Michael McCaul

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