Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) condemned Turkey’s incursion into northeastern Syria following the U.S. withdrawal but warned sanctions against the nation would not solve the problem. The representative also noted sanctions could create new humanitarian issues in an op-ed for The Washington Post on Wednesday.
Trump’s claims that he will levy harsh sanctions on Turkey if necessary and “destroy” the nation’s economy, Omar writes, are “an unmistakable echo of the failed U.S. strategy of ‘maximum pressure’ on Iran and Venezuela. And just as with those two countries, it would be a humanitarian and geopolitical disaster.”
Omar continued to criticize sanctions as a method of foreign policy persuasion, because they have historically proven ineffective. She then cited research indicating that they rarely effect the desired change and often actively hurt the countries’ civilians. “And in the case of human-rights abusers, research suggests that more abuses typically occur with economic sanctions in place than without them,” she adds.
Omar also said sanctions are frequently used as a “lever without a plan for what comes after,” citing recent sanctions on Iran that she writes have undone diplomatic process between the two nations and have largely affected the Iran’s middle class, increasing anti-American sentiment.
Similarly, she wrote, “there’s no question that the bulk of the economic crisis in Venezuela was caused by [President Nicolás] Maduro’s government, which inherited fixable problems and failed to address them. But U.S. sanctions have worsened Venezuela’s economic disaster — and handed Maduro a propaganda victory. He can now shift blame to the United States, while retaining his grip on power.”
Omar added that there have historically been cases where sanctions have been effective, including locally-organized boycott movements such as those against South Africa’s apartheid regime, but that economic and sector sanctions are “too often designed to inflict maximum pain on civilians, not empower them.”
Instead, Omar recommended strategies such as a ban on weapons sales to Turkey or the negotiation of a buffer zone in northern Syria, and that addressing the issues will require policies that do not “prioritize warfare—whether military or economic.”