House approves sanctions against Turkey

House of Representatives approves sanctions against Turkey over Syria operation.

Elad Benari ,

Donald Trump and Recep Tayyip Erdogan
Donald Trump and Recep Tayyip Erdogan

The US House of Representatives on Tuesday approved sanctions against Turkey over its offensive in northern Syria against Kurdish forces.

The measure passed 403-16, with 176 Republicans voting in support and just 15 opposing the bill, according to The Hill.

The sanctions offer a rare bipartisan rebuke of US President Donald Trump's policies while underscoring the growing divide between Congress and a NATO ally.

Turkey launched the military operation three days after Trump’s announcement of a withdrawal of US forces in northeastern Syria, with some arguing the move was an authorization for Turkey to invade the region.

While Trump defended his administration’s plans to withdraw US forces from northern Syria, he also made clear that the US would not allow Turkey to do anything inhumane in Syria.

Some leading Republicans were vocal in their criticism of Trump’s move, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who said the move “would only benefit Russia, Iran, and the Assad regime”.

Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) also expressed opposition to Trump’s sudden decision, warning such a move would be a “nightmare for Israel”, though he later changed course and said he believed “historic solutions” were possible.

Tuesday’s vote followed an announcement earlier this month by 29 House Republicans that they would introduce legislation to impose sanctions against Turkey in the wake of its assault on Kurdish forces in Syria.

“Rather than hold Turkey accountable for how they’ve conducted this bloody campaign, President Trump has given them a free pass,” House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel (D-NY) said Tuesday. “When the head of ISIS was finally killed, President Trump unfortunately thanked the Turks, thanked the Turkish government. That just doesn’t sit right with me.”

Despite the bipartisan majority approving the bill in the House, the effort to slap new sanctions on Ankara appears stalled in the upper chamber after McConnell warned against rushing to sanction a NATO ally.

The motion was approved after the House passed a resolution officially recognizing the Ottoman Empire's genocide against the Armenian people by a majority of 405-11. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu slammed the vote and said the decision was "null and void".

Fahrettin Altun, a spokesman for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, criticized the sanctions bill, writing on Twitter that the bill “threatening sanctions against Turkey is in direct contradiction to the spirit of a strategic alliance.”

“These brazen efforts to damage our relationship will have long lasting detrimental consequences on many areas of existing bilateral cooperation,” he added.