Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) this week introduced a bipartisan measure to impose “severe sanctions” on Turkey following its invasion of northern Syria, as President Donald Trump called for U.S. troops to pull out from the region.
The chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee and Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) introduced the bill on Oct. 9, warning that the sanctions would be triggered unless the Trump administration “certifies to Congress—every 90 days” that Turkish troops aren’t operating unilaterally in Syria, and “has withdrawn its armed forces, including Turkish supported rebels, from areas it occupied during the operation.”
The sanctions would target the U.S. assets of members of Turkey’s political leadership, including the president, vice president, the ministers of national defense, foreign affairs, treasury and finance, trade and energy, and natural resources. Visa restrictions would be put in place for Turkish leadership traveling to the United States, according to the document, which was published on Twitter.
I am pleased to have reached a bipartisan agreement with Senator @ChrisVanHollen on severe sanctions against Turkey for their invasion of Syria.
While the Administration refuses to act against Turkey, I expect strong bipartisan support. pic.twitter.com/Ph5fIVt7k3
— Lindsey Graham (@LindseyGrahamSC) October 9, 2019
They would also impact “any foreign person” who “sells or provides financial, material, or technological support or knowingly does a transaction” with the country’s military, and any foreign national or entity who “maintains or supports” the Turkish energy sector.
Under the measures, sales of U.S. goods that would provide “military assistance” to the Turkish Armed Forces would also be prohibited.
It comes as Kurdish fighters in Syria were left vulnerable to an attack from Turkish troops after Trump’s controversial decision to withdraw U.S. troops from key posts in northern Syria. The move has met with an intense backlash, with Graham publicly denouncing the decision.
“Most Members of Congress believe it would be wrong to abandon the Kurds who have been strong allies against ISIS,” Graham wrote on Twitter on Oct. 9.
Van Hollen wrote in a tweet: “Turkey must pay a heavy price for attacking our Syrian Kurdish partners. Senators on both sides of the aisle won’t support abandoning the one regional group most responsible for putting ISIS on its heels. Our bipartisan sanctions bill is being finalized now.”
Turkey must pay a heavy price for attacking our Syrian Kurdish partners. Senators on both sides of the aisle won’t support abandoning the one regional group most responsible for putting ISIS on its heels. Our bipartisan sanctions bill is being finalized now.
— Chris Van Hollen (@ChrisVanHollen) October 9, 2019
Just two days after U.S. troops pulled out from the region, Turkish forces and their Syrian rebel allies attacked Kurdish militia in northeast Syria on Oct. 9, pounding them with airstrikes and artillery before starting a cross-border ground operation.
Turkish media reported troops entering Syria at four points, two of them close to the Syrian town of Tel Abyad and two further east, near Ras al-Ain.
Thousands of people fled Ras al-Ain toward Hasaka Province, held by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). The SDF said that Turkish airstrikes have killed at least five civilians and three fighters from the SDF and wounded dozens of civilians.
“The Turkish Armed Forces and the Syrian National Army have launched the land operation into the east of the Euphrates river as part of the Operation Peace Spring,” the Turkish defense ministry said in a tweet after nightfall, following a day of pounding the area from the air.
‘Operation Peace Spring’
The Operation Peace Spring offensive is focused against Kurdish-led forces—the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK) and the People’s Protection Unit (YPG)—and ISIS terrorists.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced the operation on Twitter. He said the aim was to eliminate what he called a “terror corridor” on Turkey’s southern border, and “to bring peace to the area.”
The Turkish army has hit a total of 181 militant targets with airstrikes and howitzers since the start of the operation, the defense ministry said Oct. 9.
Trump said in an Oct. 9 statement: “This morning, Turkey, a NATO member, invaded Syria. The United States does not endorse this attack and has made it clear to Turkey that this operation is a bad idea.
“There are no American soldiers in the area. From the first day I entered the political arena, I made it clear that I did not want to fight these endless, senseless wars—especially those that don’t benefit the United States.”
Trump said he expected Turkey to protect civilians and religious minorities and prevent a humanitarian crisis.
“Turkey has committed to protecting civilians, protecting religious minorities, including Christians, and ensuring no humanitarian crisis takes place—and we will hold them to this commitment,” Trump said.
“In addition, Turkey is now responsible for ensuring that all ISIS fighters being held captive remain in prison and that ISIS does not reconstitute in any way, shape, or form. We expect Turkey to abide by all of its commitments, and we continue to monitor the situation closely.”
Reuters and Epoch Times staff contributed to this report.