Mnuchin Warns Turkey ‘Powerful Sanctions’ Are In Offing for Military Incursion

October 11, 2019 by Dan McCue
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin speaks during a Press Briefing in the James S. Brady Briefing Room of the White House on Oct. 11, 2019 in Washington, D.C. (Oliver Contreras/Sipa USA/TNS)

WASHINGTON – Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told reporters on Friday that President Trump has authorized his department to impose “very significant new sanctions” against Turkey for its military incursion into northern Syria.

“I want to emphasize, at this point, we are not activating the sanctions,” Mnuchin said after meeting with the president at the White House. “We are putting financial institutions on notice that they should be careful, and that there could be sanctions.”

Many have called President Donald Trump’s decision Sunday to pull a small number of U.S. troops away from the Turkish border a grave mistake that precipitated the current crisis in northern Syria.

Some of his staunchest Republican supporters, including Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, have sharply criticized the decision and urged him to reconsider.

Many have said they regard the administration’s decision to leave the area as a betrayal of the U.S.-armed Kurdish fighters who have partnered with U.S. forces against the Islamic State group since 2015.

“The President is concerned about the ongoing military offensive and potential targeting of civilians, civilian infrastructure, ethnic or religious minorities,” Mnuchin said. “And also the President wants to make very clear: It is imperative that Turkey not allow even a single ISIS fighter to escape.”

A report then asked the Treasury Secretary whether the president has expressed any concern that his action led to the Turkish invasion.

“No, I don’t think he thinks his actions are what led to this,” Mnuchin said. “It is a complicated situation.” 

Meanwhile at the Pentagon, Defense Secretary Mark Esper told reporters that the “Impulsive” decision by Turkey to invade northern Syria after the pullback of U.S. troops has badly damaged already tenuous relations with Turkey.

In July, Turkey was booted from a Defense Department fighter jet program for refusing to cancel its purchase of a Russian air defense system that is incompatible with NATO.

Esper also insisted that despite the troop pullback, the United States has not abandoned its Syrian Kurdish partners.

“To be clear, we are not abandoning our Kurdish partner forces, and U.S. troops remain with them in other parts of Syria. The impulsive action of President [Recep Tayyip] Erdogan to invade northern Syria has put the United States in a tough situation,” Esper said.

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