- The Washington Times - Friday, October 11, 2019

President Trump threatened Friday to impose “very significant” sanctions on Turkey over its decision to bombard American-allied Kurds in northeast Syria.

Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin said Mr. Trump is signing orders that authorize sanctions against any portion of the Turkish government or person tied to the government.

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

“At this point, we are not activating the sanctions,” he added.

It’s unclear what threshold Mr. Trump has in mind for triggering economic punishment, or why he is making this threat only after he announced that about 50 American special forces would exit a key buffer zone along the Turkey-Syria border. Days later, Turkey launched a military assault against U.S.-backed Kurdish forces.

Mr. Trump insists he did not greenlight the attack in his phone call last weekend with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

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

Yet Republican allies have broken with Mr. Trump over the issue.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican, called the conditional sanctions “tepid.”

“When it comes to dealing with Erdogan and protecting our Kurdish allies, the Trump Administration needs to up their game,” he said.

Mr. Trump has said he is watching developments closely and will “ruin” the Turkish economy if their military goes too far.

Mr. Trump says he is trying to bring U.S. troops home from never-ending wars.

He wants countries in Syria‘s “neighborhood” to settle their long-running disputes and secure the area. He also wants European nations to take back Islamic State fighters who left to join the now-destroyed caliphate in Syria and Iraq.

• Ben Wolfgang contributed to this report.

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