(Bloomberg) -- The U.S. is poised to impose sanctions on Turkey as soon as Monday in response to the nation’s military offensive in Syria and reported atrocities against American-allied Kurds, according to people familiar with the matter.
The initial round of penalties would most likely be aimed at a wide range of individuals and is waiting for President Donald Trump’s approval, according to one of the people. The departments of State, Defense and Treasury worked over the weekend to draft the terms, the people said.
The Trump administration is also leaving open the option of penalties aimed at military transactions, arms exports and energy shipments to the Turkish military, another person said. All of the people spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the matter.
Treasury and the White House had no immediate comment.
Turkey has continued to escalate its offensive into northern Syria as Trump’s decision to abruptly withdraw troops reverberates across the region. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says his offensive is necessary to push back Kurdish militants and resettle refugees, but the rapid advance has drawn international condemnation and accusations of war crimes.
Critics say Trump gave Erdogan a green light to attack American-allied Kurdish militias, risking a resurgence of the Islamic State and a slaughter of the Kurds. Kurdish forces that previously fought alongside the U.S. have warned they may no longer be able to secure camps and prisons holding Islamic State jihadists, including Europeans whose home countries don’t want them back.
Trump has defended his decision, tweeting on Monday that the U.S. was “not going into another war with people who have been fighting with each other for 200 years.” He also suggested the Kurds may be releasing prisoners “to get us involved.”
But Trump’s decision was met with fierce criticism from allies in Washington, including Senator Lindsey Graham. The South Carolina Republican has been working on legislation to sanction Turkey for the invasion and said Sunday that he spoke with Trump about it over the weekend.
Asked on CBS’s “Face the Nation” about videos circulating that appear to show the execution of some Kurds, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said if true, they “would be war crimes” -- raising questions about whether talk of imposing economic sanctions may be coming too late.
Esper said the U.S. learned in the past 24 hours that Turkey is likely to attack further south and to the west in Syria, and that Kurdish forces are looking to cut a deal with Syria and Russia to counterattack against the Turks in the north.
The defense secretary said he spoke with Trump on Saturday night, and that after discussions with the national security team, the president directed the start of the withdrawal of forces from northern Syria but not the entire country. Trump and Esper are scheduled to meet again on Tuesday.
To contact the reporters on this story: Jennifer Jacobs in Washington at firstname.lastname@example.org;Saleha Mohsin in Washington at email@example.com
To contact the editors responsible for this story: Alex Wayne at firstname.lastname@example.org, Joshua Gallu, Justin Blum
©2019 Bloomberg L.P.