US senators announce cross-party push to sanction Turkey over Syria offensive
Leading Republican and Democrat senators have launched a joint push to impose hard-hitting sanctions on Turkey over its military offensive in Syria, despite Donald Trump’s limited condemnation.
Lindsey Graham, the Republican senator for South Carolina and one the US president’s most prominent allies, joined Democrat Chris Van Hollen in publishing a bill to punish Turkey for its actions.
The pair propose sanctioning all US assets of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan as well as those of his vice president and ministers in charge of defence, foreign affairs, finance, trade and energy.
They also want to ban US military assistance to the Turkish armed forces and sanction anyone who sells or supports the Turkish military, among other punishments.
Mr Trump’s initial willingness to let Turkey carry out their invasion has developed into a mild rebuking this week, with the president saying he does not back the move and thinks it is a “bad idea”.
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But on Wednesday he waved away concerns that failing to protect the Kurds was a betrayal, arguing that Kurdish forces had acted partly in self-interest when they helped America defeat Isil in the region.
Mr Trump said: “As somebody wrote in a very, very powerful article today, they didn’t help us in the Second World War, they didn’t help us with Normandy, as an example.”
The sanctions legislation has a chance of passing given that the Republican leadership in the Senate has been openly critical of Mr Trump’s lack of vocal opposition to the Turkish invasion.
Mr Graham said of his proposal: “While the [Trump] Administration refuses to act against Turkey, I expect strong bipartisan support. Most Members of Congress believe it would be wrong to abandon the Kurds who have been strong allies against Isis.”
The tough stance from Republican senators contrasts with their usual unwillingness to call out Trump administration policies. Not one of them has backed the impeachment inquiry to date.