President Trump said Monday he plans to issue an executive order imposing sanctions on Turkey for its actions in Syria, which threaten the existence of the Syrian Kurds and reverse gains made against the Islamic State group.
The statement came as the outcry mounted on Trump’s decision to pull U.S. troops from Kurdish-held areas of northern Syria and word the Kurds have realigned their loyalties, accepting support from the embattled Syrian regime and Russian forces.
“Turkey’s military offensive is endangering civilians and threatening peace, security and stability in the region,” Trump said in a White House statement. “I have been perfectly clear with [Turkish] President [Recep Tayyip} Erdogan: Turkey’s action is precipitating a humanitarian crisis and setting conditions for possible war crimes.”
Trump announced the U.S. withdrawal from Syria little more than a week ago, following a phone call with Erdogan. He spent the time since trying to justify the U.S. action as political foes and allies alike accused him of abandoning a trusted ally.
Trump doubled down on his decision Monday, tweeting ISIS had been defeated and accusing Europe of failing to step up to deal with the terrorist threat.
“Let Syria and [Syrian President Bashar al-] Assad protect the Kurds and fight Turkey for their own land,” Trump tweeted, adding, “Why should we be fighting for Syria?”
He said he’s good with Russia stepping in to fill the void.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said sanctions are ready to go as soon as Trump gives the word.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Monday she and Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., had agreed on the need for a resolution reversing Trump’s decision along with sanctions on Turkey.
Saudi Arabia called the abrupt U.S. pullout a disaster that will make other nations lose faith in the reliability of the United States as an ally.
“The last thing we need in the region is another front of chaos, and I think we just got it,” Prince Khalid bin Bandar bin Sultan, the new Saudi ambassador to London, said during a discussion at the Royal United Services Institute. It was the first public comment from Saudi Arabia on the issue.
He added: “Russia is becoming an important player in the region — whether one likes it or not, it is a fact.”
Syrian troops entered northern Syria for the first time since 2012 Monday to help repel Turkish forces. For its part, Turkey said it has no intention of ending its offensive.
Kurdish authorities announced Sunday some 800 relatives of foreign jihadists had escaped from a displacement camp in northern Syria as Turkish troops moved in.