The United States has imposed economic sanctions on Turkish institutions and individuals in response to the invasion of Northern Syria by the Turkish military, according to CBS News. In the meantime, Vice President Mike Pence is headed for Turkey to negotiate a ceasefire and withdraw forces from the battle zone.
The sanctions include an increase in steel tariffs and a cancelation of a $100 billion trade deal. Also, sanctions have been imposed on three Turkish ministers and that country’s departments of defense and energy. The idea is to strike at those institutions and officials which are directly involved in “actions or policies that further threaten the peace, security, stability, or territorial integrity of Syria.”
Pence is leading a delegation that will, it is hoped, negotiate a ceasefire between the Turks and the Syrian Kurds and lead to a withdraw of Turkish forces from the Northern Syrian region which it has invaded. The strategy is another example of President Trump’s preference for economic sanctions and diplomacy to deal with foreign crises as opposed to military force.
According to the AP, Congress, which criticized the president’s original order to withdraw American troops from Northern Syria which led to the Turkish invasion, is preparing its slate of economic sanctions., The congressional sanctions will include a freeze on the American assets of Turkish leaders and a prohibition of weapons sales to Turkey.
Northern Syria has become even more chaotic is to understate the situation. Troops loyal to Bashir Assad, the nominal leader of Syria, have entered the region with the apparent purpose of fighting the Turks by the side of the Kurds. Other reports suggest that Russian troops are patrolling territory between the Turks and the Syrians. Thrown into the mix are other reports that ISIS prisoners have taken advantage of the fighting in the region by escaping and are currently in the wind.
Trump, in response to the Turkish invasion, has vowed to bring Turkey’s economy down with sanctions. The idea is to bring enough pain to the Turkish government that it will outweigh any benefits it might imagine would occur from invading Northern Syria and driving out the Kurdish fighters.
However, many of the president’s critics maintain that his original order withdrawing American troops from the region gave Turkey a “green light” to mount the invasion in the first place. Hot Air sums up the criticism thus:
“I do my best to be supportive of the President when he sticks to conservative values and promotes sensible policies, which he does regularly. That’s particularly true on immigration, taxes, border security, and other critical issues. But this situation in Syria just seems to be a huge blunder. The place was already a disaster in progress, but now it’s really going to be going to hell in a handbasket. This was not handled well.”
The president’s supporters, on the other hand, counter that he is just fulfilling a campaign promise to extricate the United States from “endless wars” in the Middle East and South Asia. The American military has been campaigning in countries such as Afghanistan and Iraq for the better part of the 21st Century with no resolution in sight. Trump is favoring a variant of the “declare victory and go home” strategy that was proposed during the Vietnam War. The idea is that whatever chaos is left behind would not affect the American homeland and, in any case, would be best left to local countries to deal with.
The Military Times suggests that, given the escape of ISIS prisoners, the United States is preparing a new strategy to prevent a revival of the Islamic State. While the withdraw of American troops from Syria is still on, the idea would be to conduct airstrikes and special operations missions from outside Syria, possibly from bases inside Iraq. A small force will remain on the Syrian-Jordanian border for operations unrelated to the Turkish-Kurdish conflict.
The United States is also urging other countries, particularly in the European Union, to join in the economic sanctions against Turkey. The more countries that agree to join in on sanctions, the quicker Turkey can be persuaded to stop fighting and institute a withdraw from Northern Syria.