'We can shut down the Turkish economy if we need to': The Trump administration just threatened harsh new sanctions on Turkey

donald trump steve mnuchinFormer investment banker for Goldman Sachs Steven Mnuchin (R) speaks as US President Donald Trump (L) looks on during a swearing-in ceremony, in the Oval Office of the White House February 13, 2017 in Washington, DC. Mnuchin was confirmed by the Senate this evening to become the Treasury Secretary for the Trump Administration.Alex Wong/Getty Images

  • The Trump administration on Friday doubled down on its threat to impose crippling economic sanctions on Turkey in response to its military campaign against the Kurds in northern Syria.
  • Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a White House briefing that the US had the power to stymie the Turkish economy, reiterating an unusual threat of economic war against an ally who's a member of the NATO alliance.
  • "We can shut down the Turkish economy if we need to," Mnuchin said.
  • However, the administration also clarified it wasn't implementing any new sanctions against Turkey.
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The Trump administration doubled down on its threat to impose crippling economic sanctions on Turkey in response to its military campaign against the Kurds in northern Syria on Friday.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a White House briefing that the US had the power to "shut down" the Turkish economy, reiterating an unusual threat of economic war against an ally who's a member of the NATO alliance.

"We can shut down the Turkish economy if we need to," Mnuchin said.

However, the administration also clarified it wasn't implementing any new sanctions against Turkey.

Read more: Trump threatens to 'totally destroy and obliterate' Turkey's economy if it takes 'off-limits' actions in Syria

The New York Times reported that President Donald Trump is expected to sign an executive order empowering the Treasury Department to punish Turkish government officials if the country targets religious or ethnic minorities as it conducts military operations in Syria.

A senior State Department official told The Times any sanctions would likely be modeled on those imposed last year against two Turkish officials for detaining American pastor Andrew Brunson.

The president has faced withering criticism from Republicans and Democrats alike for greenlighting the Turkish military operation against the Kurds, who have played a critical role in the campaign against the Islamic State.

Trump issued a similar aggressive threat against the NATO ally on Monday. He tweeted that if Turkey engages in "off-limits" actions, he would "totally destroy and obliterate" its economy.

The Turkish economy is in the middle of a yearlong recession, with a battered currency and high inflation. Economists say the Turkish economy will contract 0.3% this year after a decade of strong growth.

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