Alwaght- Senior Republican senator Lindsey Graham warned that US Senate will punish Turkey with “sanctions from hell” over its decision to mount an invasion against America’s Kurdish allies in northern Syria.
Turkey on Wednesday began pounding positions of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) with jets and artillery and sent in troops to purge them from the area east of Eauphrates.
The offensive came three days after US President Donald Trump in a sudden change of policy told his counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan that he would pull US troops from the region, effectively exposing the Kurdish militants to their archenemy, Turkey.
Shortly after the attack began, a bipartisan group of senators brought legislation that would freeze all assets Erdogan and other Turkish leaders have in the US and impose visa restrictions until Ankara withdraws from Syria.
It would also slap sanctions on entities that do business with Turkey's military or support its domestic energy industry for use by its armed forces.
The lawmakers are also seeking to prohibit the sale of US military equipment Ankara while defining its recent purchase of Russian S-400 missile defense systems as “significant” move that should also be subject to sanctions.
The lawmakers, some of them close allies of the Republican president, were upset with Trump’s decision to abandon the Kurdish forces and his refusal to help them in the face of he Turkish invasion.
Senator Lindsey Graham, a senior Republican senator and a co-sponsor of the deal, had cautioned Ankara earlier that it would be hit with "sanctions from hell" if it went ahead with the invasion.
“While the Administration refuses to act against Turkey, I expect strong bipartisan support,” he said Wednesday.
The other co-sponsor, Senator Chris Van Hollen, a Democrat from Maryland, said Trump’s move in removing US forces from Syria was a “total betrayal” of allied Kurds.
Facing harsh backlash, Trump, who is already under pressure in an impeachment inquiry, attempted to to contain some of the damage by threatening “to obliterated” Turkey's economy if it failed to to carry out the strikes in “as humane a way as possible."
"If (Erdogan) does it unfairly, he is going to pay a big economic price," Trump told reporters at the White House, adding that he would "do far more than sanctions."
Trump also distanced himself from Graham, saying the South Carolina lawmaker "would like us to stay there for the next 200 years."
The president on Wednesday signaled tentative support for the sanctions but experts say there is possibility he could veto the legislation and pave the way for a showdown with the legislative body.
“I actually think much tougher than sanctions, if (Erdogan) doesn’t do it in as humane a way as possible,” Trump said.
Erdogan says in order to establish a safe zone for refugees in northern Syria, Turkey first needs to purge People's Protection Units (YPG) from the region, the Kurdish militant group that Ankara has denounced as "terrorists" for its ties to Turkey’s homegrown Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has been fighting for autonomy since the mid-1980s.
This is while the YPG forms the backbone of the SDF, which is outraged by America’s move, specially after they played a key role in the US-led campaign that allegedly sought to destroy Daesh in Syria.
Trump is no stranger to retaliatory measures against Turkey. Last year he imposed tariffs that threw the Turkish lira into a tailspin in a successful push to release Andrew Brunson, a US pastor detained by Turkish officials on charges of participating in a coup against the government in 2016.