Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin made a Sunday appearance on ABC’s This Week to talk about the developing situation in northern Syria. Host Jon Karl asked the secretary about reports of ISIS prisoners now set free, Kurdish citizens executed and thousands displaced because of what many say were caused by President Donald Trump’s decision to stand down US troops in the northern part of Syria to allow Turkey to invade.
Karl pushed Mnuchin on sanctions, which most thought the president had promised to enact when he claimed earlier in the week that he would “obliterate the Economy of Turkey” if they moved on the Kurds — allies who helped the US in its fight against ISIS.
“What are you waiting for?” Karl asked regarding sanctions.
Mnuchin replied: “We’re ready to go at a moment’s notice to put on sanctions.”
Again, Karl asked, “This is a rapidly deteriorating situation. What are you waiting for?”
But Mnuchin talked around the immediacy and repeated that the US could go ahead with sanctions “at a moment’s notice.”
Later in the interview, Karl brought up the president’s nonsensical assertion about the Kurds being absent during the invasion of Normandy. Trump made the remark earlier in the week while compromising his decision that allowed Turkey to make advances into the region. Before showing the clip of the president that went viral, Karl said, “I want to have you explain something to me about what the president said about this, this week.”
Karl then showed the video clip of the president and then incredulously asked Mnuchin, “What is he talking about? The Kurds, obviously, did not have a state back then. Did he expect the Kurds would be on Omaha Beach?”
Mnuchin tried to make sense of the president’s nonsense by saying that people who are being critical of Trump’s decision are attempting to push the notion that the Kurds are a longtime ally of the US. “Everybody is saying we are abandoning the Kurds, like the Kurds are these long-standing allies,” Mnuchin said.
The assertion by the president and Mnunchin that the Kurds are not long-standing allies of the US is absurd. As Bilal Wahab, a fellow at The Washington Institute, told NPR, “Anecdotally, there were Kurdish soldiers who fought the Nazis in Germany alongside the British army, for example.”
Wahab also noted that the Kurds and US have worked together since the early 1970s. “You can also go all the way back to 1971, 1974, where the Kurdish Peshmerga in Iraq were fighting Saddam Hussein’s regime, and the United States was arming them and supporting them in order to dissuade Saddam Hussein from falling into the Soviet orbit at the time,” Wahab said. “But of course, when Saddam Hussein finally came through, that support was lifted. So the Kurds talk about the history of American abandonment of them. But this one in particular stings in a special way.”
But Mnuchin, never one to let history or facts get in his way, went on to say that the US focus was not about defending land for the Kurds, but instead about defeating ISIS. But, this is also problematic since the results of the president’s decision have allowed ISIS supporters to escape prison.