Will sanctions, suspended arms sales halt Turkey’s Syria offensive?

ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – With US forces set to completely withdraw from northern Syria, ceding the defense of their erstwhile Kurdish allies to the Syrian regime and its Russian and Iranian backers, few means are left available to pressure Turkey to halt its offensive bar sanctions and arms embargoes.

France and Germany joined The Netherlands, Norway, and Finland in suspending arms sales to Turkey as a means of pressuring Ankara to halt or at least soften its offensive against Syrian Kurdish forces.

“Against the backdrop of the Turkish military offensive ... the Federal Government will not issue any new permits for all military equipment that could be used by Turkey in Syria,” Germany’s Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said Saturday.

Florence Parly, the French Minister of the Armed Forces, issued a similar statement on Saturday.

“Pending the cessation of the Turkish offensive in North-East Syria, France has decided to suspend any plans to export to Turkey war materials that could be used in the context of this offensive. This decision is of immediate effect,” she tweeted.

Nevertheless, European military hardware, including Leopard tanks, has been used to fight the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), who until last week was the West’s key ally in the ground war and counterterror effort against the Islamic State group (ISIS).

It is also unclear how much of a dent the suspension will put in Turkey’s arsenal. According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), Turkey imports 60 percent of its weapons and hardware from the US, which has not joined the embargo.

Turkey also has a burgeoning domestic arms industry and is gunning for complete self-sufficiency, and could easily shop elsewhere – namely Russia – to make up any shortfall.

Unless the US, Britain, and other major arms suppliers get on board, an embargo is unlikely to force Turkey to change course in Syria.


"Everything that has ever happened to us is there to make us stronger."
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