Though there remains deep Congressional division over President Trump’s Syria actions, a group of Republican US House members are moving forward to introduce sanctions against Turkey in response to its incursion against America’s Kurdish partners in northern Syria, at a moment Turkey’s army has stepped up air and artillery strikes along a “border on fire,” as reports describe. Twenty-nine House Republicans have said they would back such a punitive move against the NATO ally, and have introduced legislation toward that end.
This as tens of thousands of civilians have fled their homes in the region, and as the border towns of Ras al-Ain and Tal Abyad have been completely encircled by Turkish forces, with humanitarian groups fearing an exodus of hundreds of thousands. Specifically aid groups have cited close to 70,000 have been forced to abandon their homes thus far, also as ground resistance from Syrian Kurdish militias intensifies.
The mounting casualty count by Friday has been summarized as follows:
At least 32 fighters with the SDF and 34 Turkey-backed Syrian rebels have been killed in fighting, while 10 civilians have been killed, Abdulrahman said. The SDF said 22 of its fighters were killed on Wednesday and Thursday.
Turkey says it has killed hundreds of SDF fighters in the operation and one Turkish soldier has been killed.
Earlier this week Trump ally Lindsey Graham slammed the White House essentially ‘green-lighting’ Erdogan’s offensive, saying it “will be the biggest mistake of his presidency” if not reversed, amid bipartisan efforts in the Senate to introduce sanctions.
Others like Republican Rep. Liz Cheney on the House side also said, “President (Recep Tayyip) Erdogan and his regime must face serious consequences for mercilessly attacking our Kurdish allies in northern Syria.”
Though saying nothing about the issue of US troop pullout from Syria, or whether there was any plan to ever ultimately bring them home, she invoked Russia as partly driving concerns: “Congress has long had concerns about the [Erdogan] regime’s cooperation with US adversaries, such as Russia,” she said.
Kurdish regional media has cited a growing civilian death toll, including multiple children killed the Turkish airstrikes and shelling.
— Kurdistan 24 English (@K24English) October 10, 2019
In response Trump appears to have been harsher on warnings issued to Turkey about the scope of its operation, but he also defended his decision-making, saying there remained three choices for US policy.
He tweeted Thursday of these three options: “Send in thousands of troops and win militarily, hit Turkey very hard financially and with sanctions, or mediate a deal between Turkey and the Kurds“. Later he said to reporters at a campaign rally in Minnesota: “I hope it’s going to be the last one.”
During the campaign even, Trump told the crowd it was time to “bring our soldiers back home” and further said, “These wars produce only chaos and bloodshed.” Pushing back against his hawkish critics, he added, “We’re slowly getting out of the Middle East. We’re doing it carefully.”