US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin
US Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinReuters

US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Friday announced that President Trump will sign an executive order expanding the administration's ability to impose sanctions on Turkish officials.

Mnuchin said that the executive order does not itself contain new sanctions, but gives Trump the authority to enact them.

The announcement comes amid the Turkish military operation against Kurdish fighters in northern Syria.

“I just met with President Trump, and he has authorized and will be signing a new executive order giving the Treasury Department, in consultation with himself and Secretary Pompeo, very significant new sanctions authorities that can be targeted at any person associated with the government of Turkey, any portion of the government. This will be both primary sanctions and secondary sanctions that will be applicable,” Mnuchin told reporters at the White House on Friday.

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

The new powers will allow the Treasury Department to sanction individuals and entities in Ankara involved in human rights abuses or undermining security in northern Syria.

“These are very powerful sanctions. We hope that we don’t have to use them, but we can shut down the Turkish economy if we need to,” Mnuchin said.

Turkey launched the military operation on Wednesday in an attempt to push out Kurdish militias. The operation began three days after Trump’s announcement on Sunday 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”.

On Thursday, 29 Republicans in the US House of Representatives announced they would introduce legislation to impose sanctions against Turkey in the wake of its assault on Kurdish forces in Syria.

(Arutz Sheva’s North American desk is keeping you updated until the start of Shabbat in New York. The time posted automatically on all Arutz Sheva articles, however, is Israeli time.)