US Senator warns Turkey of not jeopardizing ties with Congress by Syria operation
Another ground operation into Northern Syria will increasingly isolate Turkey from the United States, Senator Jim Risch, the ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee said.
Hinting on a red-light to Turkey’s request of buying new F-16s, “An escalation that results in the loss of American life would seriously jeopardize Turkey’s relationship with the US Congress,” the Republican Senator said.
“Many of the irritants in the US-Turkish relationship will likely need to be resolved to ensure a sale like this could move forward with the necessary support of Congress,” Risch told Kathimerini newspaper on Tuesday.
Risch also warned of new sanctions against Ankara, should it launches a new ground offensive into Northern Syria.
“Turkey’s ill-advised 2019 escalation drew universal condemnation and a Turkey sanctions bill from Congress. Another incursion will draw more of the same,” Risch said.
Last month, Turkey launched airstrikes into Northern Syria and Northern Iraq following a deadly Istanbul attack that Ankara blamed on Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and its Syrian affiliate Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YGP). Ankara who has carried out three large-scale military operations into Northern Syria since 2016, is now signalling another ground offensive despite Western powers’ strong opposition.
Western countries, including the United States opposed any military operation in Northern Syria, saying that it would harm the efforts in fight against the Islamic State. The US also repeatedly warned Turkey of not putting the American lives at risk in Syria.
The US that maintains troops in Syria as part of a global coalition to root out the ISIS, is allied with Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in its fight against the Islamic State. YPG which Turkey sees as an offshoot of the outlawed PKK, forms the backbone of the SDF.
“A Turkish ground incursion will only serve to further destabilize Syria, derail the US campaign against the Islamic State, and endanger the release of thousands of hardened terrorists in prisons in northern Syria,” Risch said.
Pointing out Turkey’s interest of the acquisition of new F-16s from the US, Risch said the State Department has not notified the Congress of a possible sale.
“I cannot prejudge a decision on F-16s until I see exactly what the Biden administration has negotiated with Turkey. However, many of the irritants in the US-Turkish relationship will likely need to be resolved to ensure a sale like this could move forward with the necessary support of Congress,” he said.
Last year, Turkey made an official request to buy 40 F-16s and some 80 modernization kits for its existing fleet, after Washington excluded it from the F-35 stealth fighter jet program over its acquisition of Russian S-400 air defense missiles in 2019.
While the President Joe Biden said the US administration supports the sale of the aircraft to Ankara, a possible deal needs approval from the Congress.
US Senate's Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Menendez last week reiterated his opposition to the sale of F-16s to Turkey.
“As SFRC Chairman, I will NOT approve F-16s for Turkey until [Turkish President] Erdogan halts his abuses across the region,” Menendez said.
Foreign Relations Committee is considered as one of the most powerful in the Senate, due to its broad influence on US foreign policy. Funding arms sales is one of the duties of the body.
Risch was the former chair of the SFRC.
Republican Senator Risch who also commented on Sweden and Finland’s NATO membership bids, said he is very disappointed that neither Hungary nor Turkey have yet ratified the accession of the two Scandinavian countries’ into the military alliance.
“Neither Hungary nor Turkey has presented any fundamental concerns with these two nations as members, yet both continue to take no action to make Sweden and Finland members. I think this is a big mistake,” he said.
Sweden and Finland that have a long history of neutrality in military conflicts, officially applied for NATO membership, following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Ankara opposed the two countries’ bids, citing Stockholm and Helsinki’s “failure” to combat threats to Turkey’s security and the arms embargo on Turkey.
After Sweden and Finland promised to address Ankara’s pending deportation or extradition requests of terror suspects, Turkey dropped its objections against their membership applications, allowing the military organization to formally invite the two countries for joining the alliance at a Madrid summit in June.
However, the final approval of the two Scandinavian countries’ NATO bids depends on the current member states’ parliaments. The NATO accession protocols for Sweden and Finland need to be ratified by the parliaments of all 30 members, where Ankara says it will not approve the documents if Stockholm and Helsinki fail to fulfil their commitments.
Twenty-eight of 30 NATO member states by now have given the necessary official approval for Sweden and Finland’s joining the transatlantic alliance. Turkey and Hungary remain on the list that have not yet ratified the accession protocols.
“This long wait does not allow NATO to begin integrating the formidable resources that Finland and Sweden bring into the Alliance, and, at a moment of war in Europe, weakens NATO’s unity,” Risch said.