U.S. President Donald Trump has threatened Turkey that unless it immediately ceases hostilities in Syria, it will face a series of additional sanctions, including massive tariffs on steel exports to the United States. Speaking from the White House Rose Garden, alongside members of the American National Hockey League Champion team, the Saint Louis Blues, President Trump underscored Washington’s resolve to bring an end to Turkey’s military operation. “We’re asking for a ceasefire,” Trump said, adding that “We put the strongest sanctions that you can imagine, but they get a lot. We have a lot in store if they don’t, if they don’t have an impact including massive tariffs on steel, they ship a lot of steel to the United States. They make a lot of money shipping steel they won’t be making so much money.”
President Trump also seized the opportunity to once again defend his decision to withdraw U.S. forces from northeast Syria, saying: “We want to bring our soldiers back home after so many years and they’re the greatest warriors in the world – they’re policing, they’re not a police force. They’re a different kind of a force. We want to bring our soldiers back home.”
Despite Washington’s announcement of its decision to impose a multiple punitive economic measures against Turkish government institutions and individuals; the Republic’s military has relentlessly pressed on with its military ‘Operation Peace Spring’ in Syria. After making some territorial gains, Turkish-backed paramilitary forces were forced to retreat from several border villages, when the Kurdish-led Forces and the Syrian army mounted a successful counterattack that took the Ankara-backed militants by surprise. In addition to this development, the Syrian army and its Russian patrons are taking advantage of the American retreat. Heavily–armed convoys with Syrian and Russian flags entered the flashpoint city of Manbij yesterday, hampering Turkey’s declared–intent to capture the area.
It is important to mention that the entry of the Russian and Syrian armies coincided with the American military pull-out from the strategic city withdrawal that was broadcast on Kurdish television. Turkey responded to the developments by deploying additional armored vehicles and tanks to the border area, in a further indication of Ankara’s resolve to accomplish its operation’s objectives.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan reiterated the goals of his country’s military operation during a state visit to Azerbaijan. While addressing the Turkic Council summit in Baku, Erdogan said that Turkey’s goals include the complete elimination of those he referred to as “terrorists groups and PKK bases in northern Syria,” and to ‘safely return 3,650000 Syrian Arabs Turkey has hosted for the past eight years back to their homeland.
“If God is willing,” said Erdogan, “in a short time, we will establish security on the territory from Manbij to our border with Iraq; reaffirming Ankara’s intention to conquer the Syrian city of Manbij, from where it will extend a Turkish-controlled “safe zone” all the way to the border with Iraq.
It is important to note that despite President Erdogan’s declared goals for Syria; He is scheduled to receive an American delegation led by U.S. Vice President Mike Pence in Ankara tomorrow. According to a White House press release, Vice President Pence will echo President Trump’s demand to immediately end hostilities in Syria, while also working toward a negotiated settlement between Turkey and the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces. A Turkish source speaking to TV7 questioned the relevance of the American mission to Turkey at this time, regardless of its level, in light of the pact struck between the Kurds, Damascus and Moscow.
Now to London, where British Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs Dominic Raab insisted that the United Kingdom in particular, and the West at large, “need to be very careful” not to drive Turkey into the arms of Russia and its President, saying: “From the outset, the UK has warned Turkey against taking this military action, and as we feared, it has seriously undermined the stability and the security of this region.”He added that according to his opinion “we need to be very careful to exercise absolute clarity with our Turkish partners and allies to be clear that they must end this incursion. But equally, and I think this was the point she (Mordaunt) was making, to avoid driving Turkey into the arms of Russia and President Putin.”
In contrast to other European states, the British Foreign Secretary did not clearly indicate London’s intention to halt new arms export licenses to Turkey but instead used vague terminology in apparent attempt to allow the U.K. leeway in its decision-making vis-à-vis ‘defense exports to Turkey’. Raab stated that “The UK government takes its arms export control responsibilities very seriously and, in this case, of course, we will keep our defense exports to Turkey under very careful and continual review.”