U.S. considering sanctions on Turkey - security expert

A closed-door meeting of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee this week demonstrates an increased interest from U.S. lawmakers in imposing sanctions on NATO ally Turkey, wrote Blaise Misztal, the national security expert at the Washington Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC) think tank along with Jessica Michek. 

Mitzsal spoke to AhvalTV, emphasizing one unique aspect of this most recent meeting at the Senate: a Treasury official along with officials from the State and Defence Departments participated in the meeting.

Misztal, the director of the national security program at BPC, argued that "the realistic issue" motivating Treasury participation could be a congressional desire to learn about the possibility of placing sanctions on Turkey, whether for a potential Turkish incursion into Manbij or another issue.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has threatened to extend the ongoing military offensive in northwest Syria to the area of Manbij, and demanded the withdrawal of U.S. troops posted there. The United States has firmly rejected this demand.

The closed meeting at the Senate could be also a signal to change the pattern of the U.S. administration's behavior when it comes to Turkish issues, added Misztal. "Trying to maintain good relations with Turkey hasn't changed anything,” he said.

“We have always seen Turkey and the U.S. grow further apart in foreign policy. Turkey has only backslided in democracy. And maybe some tougher measures might now be warranted. Perhaps, a discussion is that the sanctions can be part of the tougher strategy."

Misztal avoided giving any kind of estimate on the percentage of support for such sanctions on Turkey at the Congress, though he stated that in his opinion as an expert working at the Bipartisan Policy Center, "Erdogan has been a great force for bipartisanship in Washington, there are a lot of alarms in both Democrats and Republicans for what is happening in Turkey perhaps for different reasons.”

This alarm is based partly on the country’s declining human rights standards, and partly on the Turkish administration’s willingness to threaten U.S. forces in Syria, said Misztal.

Misztal also explained in detail the Magnitsky Act, which was originally designed to sanction the Russian officials, and what it has to do with the Turkish administration at this juncture. 

Misztal said he hopes that the top U.S. officials' planned visit to Turkey will be an opportunity to convey a message on the devastating effect on the countries’ bilateral relations if Turkey were to decide to make an incursion into Menbij.

However, the security expert has little optimism for the future of US and Turkey relations.

"It remains an alliance but on paper only, and the meagre fact that we are both members of NATO,” said Misztal. “But it seems that there are very few if any places that both countries' interest align. It seems like there are no values that we share in common anymore. It's an alliance but not a partnership."