The U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed legislation to impose sanctions against military and government officials of Turkey for its invasion into northern Syria.
The House passed the “Protect Against Conflict by Turkey Act” 403 to 16, sending it onto the Senate floor for a vote. If it passes, it will then go on to President Donald Trump to be signed into law.
The legislation was introduced by Rep. Eliot Engel, chairman of the House of Foreign Affairs Committee, in response to Ankara conducting Operation Peace Spring into Syria to rid its border of U.S.-ally Kurdish forces it views as terrorists.
The operation was launched early this month after Trump announced the removal of U.S. troops from the area, a move that many have criticized as green lighting Turkey’s operation.
Engel chastised Trump from his decision Tuesday, saying he runs a “fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants foreign policy.”
“President Trump has let [Turkish President Recep Tayyip] Erdogan off scot-free for a heinous assault that is destabilizing the region and threatening international security,” he said in his remarks to the House. “President Trump and President Erdogan are responsible for the catastrophe in northeast Syria. They both must be held accountable.”
He said the sanctions are to punish those most responsible for Turkey’s attack against the Kurdish forces, a U.S.-ally that represented a large contingent of the coalition fighters in the mission to defeat the Islamic State in the region.
The legislation mandates the mandatory asset freeze and visa ban against senior officials, stops all arms transfers to Turkey that could be used against the Kurds in Syria and sanctions Turkish banks with ties to Erdogan.
It also requires investigations into Erdogan’s finances and calls on the Trump administration to prepare strategies for the United States to assist Syrian Kurdish communities affected by the military operation and to prevent a resurgence of IS that the attack has instigated.
Turkey said it “strongly condemned” the act’s adoption, claiming it is “incompatible with the spirit of our NATO alliance.”
“The U.S. officials, who have been even disregarding the difference between an ally country and a terrorist organization and have been carelessly legitimizing a terrorist with their rhetoric and actions in the past days, should understand that they cannot achieve anything with the threats of unilateral sanctions,” Turkey’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement. “We urge the U.S. Congress not to exploit bilateral issues for domestic political consumption and to act in line with the spirit of our alliance and partnership.”
The passing of the act is the second legal rebuke by the House against Trump’s response to Turkey after it passed a resolution Oct. 16 condemning his decision to end U.S. military support of Kurdish forces in Syria.
“It’s really a disgrace,” Engel said. “These people fought with us, these people took bullets for us, these people were our loyal and faithful allies, and for the United States to turn our backs on them, to start a series of events, a chain of events, which would hurt them really is a very dark day in our country’s history.”
According to a Tuesday report from the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based human rights monitor, 130 civilians have been killed and over 300,000 have been displaced since the Turkey invasion began on Oct. 9.