Turkey’s Government has blasted a US sanctions bill over Ankara’s offensive in northeast Syria, threatening retaliation against American bases.
On Wednesday the Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted 18-4 to sanction Turkey over the early October cross-border push into the Kurdish cantons of Kobani and Cezire, and Ankara’s purchase of S-400 advanced anti-air missile systems from Russia. The Committee chair, Republican Sen. Jim Risch, and ranking Democrat Sen. Bob Menendez said, “Now’s the time for the Senate to come together and take this opportunity to change Turkey’s behavior.”
Yesterday the Turkish Foreign Ministry, claiming “domestic political calculations” by the US legislators, derided “a new incident of disrespect to our sovereign decisions about our national security”.
The Ministry said the sanctions proposal is “beyond damaging to U.S.-Turkey relations”.
The statement backed up Wednesday’s warning by Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu of Turkish counter-measures: “Members of the U.S. Congress need to understand that they cannot achieve anything by imposition. If the U.S. approaches positively, we will approach positively too.”
He spoke of a “worst-case scenario” in which the Erdoğan Government will decide upon steps against the US airbase in İncirlik in southern Turkey and NATO’s radar system in Kürecik:
İncirlik may come up, and Kürecik may come up. Everything may come up….We will evaluate and decide on the worst-case scenario.
Çavuşoğlu also said Turkey is open to alternatives to the supply of US F-35 jets — including from Russia, after Ankara was suspended from the F-35 program over the purchase of Moscow’s S-400 systems.
He implicitly appealed to Donald Trump to ensure that no sanctions bill is ever signed into law: “The decision of the [US] administration is important, not [that of] the Congress.”
On October 6, during a phone call with Turkish President Recep Tayip Erdoğan, Trump accepted the offensive into a zone which is 480 km (270 miles) long and 30 km (19 miles) long in northeast Syria. Erdoğan says he will resettle i the area up to 2 million of the 3.6 million Syrian refugees in Turkey.
Trump called for the removal of US personnel, deployed alongside the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces that were created in autumn 2015 to remove the Islamic State from northeast Syria.
The Pentagon pushed back. Giving Trump the rationale that Kurdish-held oilfields must be kept from ISIS, the Defense Department has retained 600 troops in the northeast. However, they are outside the zone claimed by Turkey.
Ankara considers the Kurdish militia, the leading faction in the US-backed SDF, as “terrorists” who are part of the Turkish Kurdish insurgency PKK.