19 Nov Should the U.S. Sanction Turkey for its Invasion of Northern Syria?
President Trump recently declared an end to economic sanctions imposed on Turkey after it invaded Syria earlier this month. There’s a widespread belief among lawmakers of his own party and foreign policy experts that the U.S. withdrawal from the invaded region is a sign of victory for Turkey and Russia. Trump was quoted, saying, “Let someone else fight over this long-bloodstained sand.” He further added a few troops would remain in Syria to secure oil fields, which is a recurrent goal when he discusses the region.
Trump has been quite persistent in describing the region as “sand” and deserts, but this particular slice of northern Syria is, in fact, a densely populated part of the Euphrates River valley, which consists of a number of cities, many of them with large numbers of Kurdish civilians.
Russian officials and media have been lauding the U.S. pullback as a sign of Moscow’s growing power in the region.
Trump abruptly ordered the pullout of troops from northern Syria. That paved the way for Turkey to invade the area and attack Kurdish militia groups, which have been close U.S. allies for years.
As most people know, Kurds did the majority of the fighting in recent years against the Islamic State militias. The Turks have a large Kurdish population in their country, and they view the autonomous Kurdish groups in Syria and neighboring Iraq as a possible threat to their security. Vice President Mike Pence flew to Turkey, where he negotiated a cease-fire with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. As per the discussion, Turkey agreed to a five-day pause in its invasion. The pause allowed Kurdish fighters to flee the region, although they left behind tens of thousands of Kurdish civilians.
Proponents think the time had come for the U.S. to back out from the region, despite past promises to the Kurds that the U.S. would defend them in return for their service against Islamic State. Opponents view this drastic step as a sign of weak foreign policy and might lead to the influx of more militant groups in the disputed region. Skeptics think its a diplomatic tactic to stay out of trouble once the benefits have been reaped.