Just days after appearing to acquiesce to a Turkish invasion of northern Syria that focused on routing America’s Kurdish allies, the Trump administration is officially reversing course. They are officially calling instead for a cease-fire, imposing economic sanctions and dispatching Vice President Pence to Ankara.
In an executive order issued Monday, President Trump stated that Turkey’s offensive “undermines the campaign to defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, endangers civilians, and further threatens to undermine the peace, security, and stability in the region …”
The order from Trump halts a $100 billion trade deal being hammered out between Ankara and Washington, raises tariffs on Turkish steel to 50% and imposes sanctions on senior Turkish officials and the country’s defense and energy ministries.
“I am fully prepared to swiftly destroy Turkey’s economy if Turkish leaders continue down this dangerous and destructive path,” the president said.
The U.S. would consider increasing the sanctions unless Turkey “is willing to embrace a cease-fire, come to the negotiating table and end the violence,” said Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.
The order comes in the midst of strong criticism from within the president’s own party over Washington’s perceived abandonment of its Kurdish allies in Northern Syria and reports of executions of Kurdish militia captured by Turkish forces on the battlefield.
The European Union on Monday joined France and Germany in agreeing to stop weapons exports to Turkey. The EU condemned the military action in Syria, which it said “seriously undermines the stability and the security of the whole region.”
Pence, speaking to reporters outside the White House on Monday, said he had been asked by the president to lead a delegation to Turkey “as quickly as possible.” He is expected to be accompanied by national security adviser Robert O’Brien.
“We want an immediate ceasefire,” Pence said.
The vice president reiterated the administration’s insistence that it did not approve the invasion.
“The United States of America did not give a green light to Turkey to invade Syria,” Pence said. “The president has been very clear on that point, and reiterated that to President Erdogan today. … President Trump pressed him very strongly in the telephone call today to immediately embrace a cease-fire.”