President Trump signed an executive order Friday expanding his powers to impose sanctions on Turkey or anyone associated with the government. It is being seen as a warning that he’s serious about “crippling Turkey’s economy” as he has threatened since ordering U.S. troops to pull back from the border between Turkey and Syria.
The move drew criticism from both the left and the right as politicians and pundits assert the move is a betrayal to our allies in the region, the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces. Our troops provided weapons, training, and counsel for the Kurds in their battles against the Islamic State. By pulling troops back, Turkey was given a green light to attack their long-time enemies who they believe are terrorists assisting Kurdish insurgents in their own nation, the PKK.
“These are very powerful sanctions. We hope we don’t have to use them, but we can shut down the Turkish economy if we need to,” Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said. “We are putting financial institutions on notice that they should be careful, and that there could be sanctions.”
These are not sanctions as of yet, They simply expand the President’s ability to impose strong sanctions against Turkey and its leaders. The President has warned if the fighting gets out of hand, if Turkey gets too aggressive, or if any of the 12,000 Islamic State captives in the region escape, he would crush the Turkish economy. Currently, Turkey relies on trade with the United States to sustain its economy, which is the largest economy in the Middle East and has the 18th highest GDP in the world.
The situation was exacerbated Friday following reports Turks attacked a position with U.S. troops present, though very little has been discussed in the media about the development. Many of the President’s Republican allies, most notably Senator Lindsey Graham, have adamantly opposed the move. But as Lieutenant Colonel (US Army, Ret.) Robert L. Maginnis noted:
Trump allies make much hay about withdrawing troops from Kurdish Syria – but miss the bigger picture
President Trump answered these critics. The Kurds were engaged in a contractual relationship fighting the Islamic State (ISIS). They were well paid and equipped for their fighting, much like any mercenary group. Further, they were given three years to consolidate eastern Syria to feed their long-held desire to form an independent Kurdistan with other Kurds in Turkey, Iraq, and Iran. They failed.
The Kurds’ problem and by association the U.S. is that regional powers like Turkey and to a lesser extent Iran and Syria have long held the Kurds in disdain. In fact, Turkey considers the Syrian Kurds allies to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party or (PKK), which are Turkish Kurds and terrorists fighting for independence for the last 35 years.
Basically, the Kurds hijacked our fight with ISIS to feed their regional civil war to earn independence.
It will be interesting to see if Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan slows the attacks on the Kurds. If he doesn’t, how far will President Trump go to prevent full-blown war from breaking out again in the region?
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