US President Donald Trump warned Monday that Turkey faces imminent sanctions over its incursion into northeastern Syria against Kurdish militia, but also signalled that Washington would avoid armed conflict with Ankara.
“Big sanctions on Turkey coming!” Trump said, after Turkish attacks stepped up over the weekend on the Syrian Kurds, who had allied with the US war against the Islamic State group.
Trump’s decision last week to pull out of the area — clearing the way for the Turkish incursion — has been attacked at home as a betrayal of America’s Kurdish allies, that risks triggering a resurgence of IS.
Washington and its partners have condemned the Turkish invasion but their threats of sanctions have failed to stop it.
Trump also suggested the Kurds were trying to draw the United States into a broader, alleging they were deliberately freeing some Islamic State prisoners “to get us involved” in the conflict.
“Do people really think we should go to war with NATO Member Turkey?” Trump said, ruing “never ending wars.”
“The same people who got us into the Middle East mess are the people who most want to stay there!”
It was not clear whether Trump would issue an executive order for immediate sanctions by the US Treasury or wait for Congress to act.
“It’s definitely not too late for the US to impose sanctions on Turkey,” said Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin after meetings in the White House.
But, he added, “It’s a complicated situation,” given Turkey’s membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said Congress would move quickly with support from both parties.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan “made the biggest mistake of his political life,” Graham told Fox News.
“I’ve never seen such bipartisan support. We’ve all had it with Erdogan,” he said.
“Republicans and Democrats working with the administration are going to come down on him like a ton of bricks — Iranian-type sanctions — and he deserves it.”
“We’re going to drive him out of Syria, we’re going to reset the table.”
Trump over the weekend ordered around 1,000 US troops in northern Syria pulled back from the border region to avoid getting caught in the fighting.
“We have American forces likely caught between two opposing advancing armies and it’s a very untenable situation,” Defense Secretary Mark Esper told CBS’s “Face the Nation” on Sunday.