The US House of Representatives approved sanctions against Turkey yesterday over its military operation and presence into northern Syria, only a week after President Donald Trump lifted them.
The measure passed by 403-16, including 176 members of the Republican party voting in support and a mere 15 opposing it, showing the widespread sentiments against Turkey’s operation, its relations with the US, and the increasing split between Washington and Ankara.
Following Turkey’s launch of Operation Peace Spring, which aimed to both push back the US-backed Kurdish militias from the Turkish-Syrian border and establish a 32 kilometre-deep safe zone to house around two million Syrian refugees, many around the world and in the US Congress and Senate were outraged. Among those US politicians who condemned the operation and were opposed to Trump’s decision to withdraw US forces from northern Syria were Senator Lindsey Graham and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who claimed that the move “would only benefit Russia, Iran, and the Assad regime.”
After a ceasefire between Turkey and the Kurdish YPG militia two weeks into the operation, however, a deal was struck between Russia and Turkey which agreed to implement a number of steps to establish the safe zone in return for the ceasing of the operation. Trump then lifted the sanctions that were imposed on Turkey throughout the operation, praising the deal and stating that “Countless lives are now being saved as a result of our negotiation with Turkey.”
The re-imposing of the sanctions comes at the same time as the US announced that it has officially recognised the mass killing of Armenians – commonly referred to as the Armenian genocide – by the Ottoman Empire in 1915, further risking a diplomatic and political fallout between the US and Turkey and the damage of their already-fragile relationship.
This shift in US policy towards Turkey – a prominent NATO ally – in recent weeks and months has confused many, particularly due to the fact that it was Trump who gave his blessing to Turkey to proceed with the military operation. That was before having a change of heart and warning the country that the US will “decimate” Turkey’s economy, as well attempting to cut off Turkey’s access to the airspace over north-east Syria in order to cripple its operational effectiveness.