The United States should impose sanctions on Turkey if the government implements the threats of military operations against US-backed Kurdish forces in northeast Syria, US Senator Chris Van Hollen told Al-Monitor on Tuesday.
“There have to be at least economic sanctions,” said Van Hollen, adding that the “risk is real” of a Turkish military operation.
The tension between Washington and Ankara continues to escalate over Turkey’s military threats against northeast Syria and US President Joe Biden has “pushed back quietly but forcefully” to block such an incursion against the United States’ Kurdish allies that would distract them from anti-ISIS operations, according to Van Hollen. However, Congress could take a harder stance if Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan follows through on his threats, the Senator said.
Because of Turkey’s threats against northeast Syria and the country’s unwillingness to impose sanctions against Russia, Van Hollen defined Ankara as “for the most part not a faithful ally.”
After Turkey’s recent airstrikes on November 2022 against northeast Syria, Turkish authorities openly stated that their military operations against the Kurdish regions would continue uninterrupted and that a new ground operation could start at any time.
Mazloum Abdi, Commander in Chief of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), also stated recently that they expect attacks from Turkey before the upcoming elections. The Turkish government may use an incursion into Kurdish-held northern Syria as a means to rile up nationalist support that it has lost in recent years, Abdi believes.
Van Hollen also said that Turkey will not be able to receive F-16 fighter jets from the US until it approves Finland and Sweden’s NATO membership bid. Turkey has been expecting the F-16 sale deal to be concluded for more than a year.
“We need to be working in more coordination with our EU partners and considering, potentially, different kinds of sanctions if Erdoğan continues to block the entry (into NATO) of Finland and Sweden,” said Van Hollen.