Faced with increasing bipartisan criticism over his decision to withdraw U.S. troops from northern Syria, President Donald Trump said he would authorize new sanctions against Turkish officials, was stopping trade negotiations with the country, and would boost tariffs on imports of Turkish steel. Turkey launched an incursion into Syria last week after Trump announced a withdrawal of U.S. forces from the region, leaving Kurdish fighters and civilians vulnerable to attack.
In a statement posted to his Twitter account, Trump said Washington would immediately stop negotiation on a $100 billion trade deal with Turkey and increase tariffs on the country’s steel to 50 percent. He also vowed an executive order “soon” that would authorize sanctions against current and former officials and “any persons contributing to Turkey’s destabilizing actions in northeast Syria.” Without naming names, Trump vowed that the order would allow for the imposing of “powerful additional sanctions” against anyone “who may be involved in serious human rights abuses” and otherwise threatened “the peace, security or stability in Syria.” Trump once again warned he was “fully prepared to swiftly destroy Turkey’s economy if Turkish leaders continue down this dangerous and destructive path.”
Trump also defended his decision to pull all but a small group of U.S. troops out of Syria, saying they would remain in the region “to monitor the situation.” Over several tweets, Trump struck a nationalist tone, saying there was no reason for the United States to be involved in such a far-away conflict. “Anyone who wants to assist Syria in protecting the Kurds is good with me, whether it is Russia, China, or Napoleon Bonaparte,” Trump wrote. “I hope they all do great, we are 7,000 miles away!” Trump emphasized he’d rather focus the country’s resources at home. “I would much rather focus on our Southern Border which abuts and is part of the United States of America,” Trump tweeted.
Trump vociferously defended his decision as House Sepaker Nancy Pelosi and Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham came to an agreement that Congress should pass a resolution to “overturn” Trump’s decision on Syria. “Our first order of business was to agree that we must have a bipartisan, bicameral joint resolution to overturn the President’s dangerous decision in Syria immediately,” Pelosi tweeted Monday after a conversation with Graham. She also said that “we must have a stronger sanctions package than what the White House is suggesting.” Graham, normally a staunch Trump ally who has been critical of his Syria decision, characterized the conversation a little differently and didn’t directly mention overturning Trump’s move. He did say however he would be working Pelosi on sanctions and agreed with the speaker that “we should show support for Kurdish allies.”
Graham also seemed to respond directly to Trump’s declaration that he would rather spend resources on the border with Mexico rather than thousands of miles away. “Our southern border should be our LAST line of defense against radical Islam,” Graham tweeted. “Our FIRST line of defense is the U.S. military working with partners in radical Islam’s backyard.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell also spoke up and expressed his disagreement with the president’s actions without actually naming him, writing in a statement that he was “gravely concerned by recent events in Syria and by our nation’s apparent response thus far.”