White House Threatens Turkey With Crippling Sanctions

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration on Friday belatedly threatened new sanctions against Turkey that officials said could cripple Turkey’s economy in response to its military offensive against Kurds in northern Syria.

President Trump will sign an executive order giving the Treasury Department new powers to punish Turkish government officials if Turkey targets ethnic and religious minorities in its operations against the Kurds. The White House also warned that if any Islamic State fighters being held in prisons in the area were allowed by Turkey to escape, the United States would respond forcefully.

“We can shut down the Turkish economy if we need to,” the Treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin, said in a briefing at the White House.

The Trump administration said, however, that it was not yet moving ahead with any new sanctions against Turkey.

Mr. Trump’s decision to remove American forces from the region in advance of the Turkish offensive has been met with bipartisan condemnation in Congress. Lawmakers are moving forward with bipartisan sanctions legislation, which could have enough votes to override a presidential veto.

In the days since President Recep Tayyip Erdogan spoke with Mr. Trump by telephone about pulling American troops out of Syria, several senior American diplomats have said that Mr. Trump made a crucial error by not threatening sanctions ahead of the withdrawal. By doing so after the fact, Mr. Erdogan would lose face if he changed course in response to such a warning.

Mr. Mnuchin said that he did not believe that the president’s actions were what led to the current situation in the region. Mr. Trump had told the Turkish president that American troops fighting alongside the Kurds in a countermission against the Islamic State would be pulled back from the border with Syria, which critics of the president’s policy said was, in effect, giving the Turks a greenlight to start their offensive.

The executive order will give Treasury the authority to impose secondary sanctions against anyone engaging in “knowing and significant transactions” with designated individuals and entities of Turkey’s government.

Mr. Mnuchin said that banks should be on notice for potential sanctions actions by the United States.