Dec 23, 2019

Trump administration lays out case against Senate bill that would levy Turkey sanctions

President Trump and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Photo: Peter Nicholls/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

The Trump administration laid out its case against a Senate bill that would sanction Turkey for purchasing Russian-made defense systems and help Syrian Kurdish refugees immigrate to the U.S. in a State Department document obtained by The Daily Beast.

Why it matters: The document reveals how Turkey's actions have divided Trump officials and members of Congress, who have criticized the executive branch for not sanctioning Turkey for trading with Russia's defense and intelligence sectors.

  • The bipartisan "Promoting American National Security and Preventing the Resurgence of ISIS Act" — sponsored by Sens. Jim Risch (R-Idaho) and Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) — would bar the U.S. from selling Turkey F-16 or F-35 fighter jets unless the country abandons the Russian-made S-400 missile defense system it has purchased and tested. 

The big picture: In the document, the administration argues that the legislation would damage defense trade between the U.S. and Turkey, pushing Turkey to buy more weapons from Russia or other "adversary arms providers."

  • The administration says the legislation would "treat Turkey as a pariah in NATO, feeding a narrative that the Russian Federation would likely seek to amplify and exploit."

The administration also opposes a provision of the bill that would help Kurdish allies immigrate to the U.S.

  • "The President has been clear on this Administration’s approach to refugees as reflected in the National Security Strategy of the United States," the document says.
  • The administration has already capped the number of refugees the U.S. will accept at a historic low of just 18,000 from a high of 110,000 in 2016.

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Turkey's parliament votes to send troops to Libya

Photo: Turkish Presidency/Murat Cetinmuhurdar/Handout/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Turkey's parliament has voted to deploy troops to Libya in support of the UN-recognized government, deepening its role in a proxy war that's also pulled in Russia and other regional powers, Bloomberg reports.

The state of play: Turkey is supporting efforts by Libya's UN-recognized government to block an offensive on the capital, Tripoli, by rebel commander Khalifa Haftar. Haftar is backed by the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, and mercenaries from Russia's Wagner Group.

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Erdoğan's gamble in Libya could hinge on Putin's reaction

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (R) with Libyan Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj. Photo: Murat Kula/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Turkey’s parliament on Thursday authorized President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to deploy troops to Libya, adding a new dimension to a proxy war that features foreign drones and Russian mercenaries.

The state of play: Libya has been plagued by war and instability since the overthrow of dictator Muammar Ghaddafi in 2011.

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Renewed regime bombing campaign worsens crisis in northwest Syria

A Syrian refugee camp in Sarmada, near the Turkish border. Photo: Aref Tammawi/AFP via Getty Images

As 2019 comes to a close, a military offensive launched by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Idlib has killed at least 100 civilians and displaced more than 235,000, creating a new nightmare in a region already racked by humanitarian catastrophe.

The big picture: The recent strikes are part of a wider government campaign to reassert authority over Idlib, Syria’s last remaining rebel stronghold. Nearly 3 million civilians are trapped in the northwestern province, boxed in by Turkey's closed border.

Go deeperArrowDec 31, 2019