Turkey’s operation in northeast Syria has “undermined” the US-led campaign against Islamic State terrorists, the Pentagon has claimed, warning that Washington will be “pressing” their NATO allies to sanction Ankara.
Blaming Turkey for “undermining the successful multinational ‘Defeat ISIS’ mission in Syria,” US Defense Secretary Mark Esper announced a “deliberate withdrawal” of US forces from northeast Syria.
I will be visiting NATO next week in Brussels, where I plan to press our other NATO allies to take collective and individual diplomatic and economic measures in response to these egregious Turkish actions.
“President Erdogan bears full responsibility” for “a potential ISIS resurgence, possible war crimes, and a growing humanitarian crisis,” Esper warned, pinning the responsibility for “widespread casualties, refugees, destruction, insecurity, and a growing threat to US military forces” exclusively on Turkey.
While Turkey had given the US and regional powers weeks of advance notice of its plans to create a so-called “safe zone” in northeast Syria before launching ‘Operation Peace Spring’ last week, the US has framed the campaign as a reckless and irresponsible operation, threatening Ankara with hefty sanctions and announcing a 50 percent increase on steel tariffs.
After withdrawing a small contingent of US forces from the Syrian-Turkish border last week, President Donald Trump threatened to “destroy” Turkey’s economy if the country stepped out of line, without explaining exactly what actions on Ankara’s part would trigger that destruction.
As a member of NATO, Turkey is supposed to be protected from unilateral sanctions and other seemingly arbitrary punishments. However, Germany and France have already halted weapons sales to the country, and it’s unlikely other members of the alliance will defy Washington’s “pressure.”
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan pledged on Friday that he would not “stop this fight, no matter what anyone says,” emphasizing that Turkey’s quarrel is not with the Kurds as a people, but with “terrorist” militias.