Turkey advances farther into Syria after Trump sanctions

Turkey advances farther into Syria after Trump sanctions

Turkey advanced its assault in northeastern Syria on Tuesday after President TrumpDonald John TrumpRussian sanctions will boomerang States, cities rethink tax incentives after Amazon HQ2 backlash A Presidents Day perspective on the nature of a free press MORE announced sanctions over its military campaign.

Syrian fighters backed by Ankara said they would continue their advance toward the city of Manbij, a key flashpoint west of the Euphrates River, according to Reuters. A Reuters cameraman also reported heavy bombing of the Syrian border town of Ras al Ain, where a spokesman for the Syrian Democratic Forces, a group largely made up of Kurdish fighters, reported an ongoing battle was taking place.

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Ankara is currently waging an offensive against Kurdish forces in northeastern Syria that it alleges are tied to an anti-Turkish insurgency. Its operation, which is targeting groups that allied with the U.S. in the fight against ISIS, has sparked bipartisan condemnation in Washington.

Trump said in a statement Monday he is slapping sanctions on government officials in Ankara and “any persons contributing to Turkey’s destabilizing actions in northeast Syria.” The sanctions targeted the Turkish Ministry of National Defense and Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources, as well as the leaders of those two agencies and the head of the Ministry of the Interior. 

The sanctions include an increase on steel tariffs from 25 percent to 50 percent and a halt in trade negotiations with Turkey.

“Turkey’s military offensive is endangering civilians and threatening peace, security, and stability in the region,” said Trump. “I have been perfectly clear with President Erdoğan: Turkey’s action is precipitating a humanitarian crisis and setting conditions for possible war crimes.” 

“I am fully prepared to swiftly destroy Turkey’s economy if Turkish leaders continue down this dangerous and destructive path.”

Critics of the sanctions said they were too little, too late, with Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiMalaysia says it will choose 5G partners based on own standards, not US recommendations Pelosi warns allies against using Huawei Budget hawks frustrated by 2020 politics in entitlement reform fight MORE (D-Calif.) saying the package "falls very short of reversing that humanitarian disaster."

"President Trump gave Turkey the green light to attack our Kurdish partners, betraying the thousands of fighters who gave their lives to keep the world safe from the barbarism of ISIS," Pelosi said in the statement. "His erratic decision-making is threatening lives, risking regional security and undermining America’s credibility in the world." 

Trump’s decision to withdraw U.S. troops from northeastern Syria, which removed the chief deterrent to Turkey’s operation, drew bipartisan ire on Capitol Hill, with many saying it paved the way for the offensive. The Pentagon on Monday announced the official withdrawal of U.S. forces from northeastern Syria. 

“Due to Turkey's irresponsible actions, the risk to U.S. forces in northeast Syria has reached an unacceptable level. We are also at risk of being engulfed in a broader conflict,” Defense Secretary Mark EsperMark EsperPeace deal with US to be signed by months' end, Taliban says US defense chief says Taliban deal 'looks very promising' but not without risk Trump defense chief hits 'predatory' China as rising global threat MORE said in a statement, adding that "a small footprint" of U.S. forces will remain at the al-Tanf garrison in southern Syria "to continue to disrupt remnants of ISIS."