Lindsey Graham turns on Trump over ‘disaster’ Syria move

Senator says he will introduce 'bipartisan sanctions against Turkey if they invade Syria' following removal of US troops

Chris Riotta
New York
Monday 07 October 2019 15:10
Lindsey Graham slams Donald Trump's decision withdraw from Syria, claiming it 'throws region into chaos'

Senator Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican who has closely aligned himself with Donald Trump on foreign policy issues, blasted the president on Twitter over his decision pull the US military out of Syria.

The senator slammed Mr Trump over the move, saying it would lead to the revival of the Islamic State, hamper US-Turkish relations and serve as “a stain” on America’s honour.

In a follow up tweet shortly after, Mr Graham said he would “introduce bipartisan sanctions against Turkey if they invade Syria” and said he would also “call for their suspension from NATO if they attack Kurdish forces who assisted the US in the destruction of the ISIS Caliphate”.

“I don’t know all the details regarding President Trump’s decision in northern Syria,” Mr Graham initially wrote after news broke of the president's decision to remove troops from northeast Syria. “If press reports are accurate this is a disaster in the making.”

He added: “Also, if this plan goes forward will introduce Senate resolution opposing and asking for reversal of this decision.”

The senator said that he expected the potential resolution would “receive strong bipartisan support”.

In a separate interview with Fox News on Monday morning, Mr Graham described the decision as “impulsive”.

“I hope I’m making myself clear how shortsighted and irresponsible this decision is in my view,” the senator said. “This to me is just unnerving to its core.”

His comments came after the White House announced on Sunday it would remove US troops from northeast Syria and clear the way for an expected Turkish assault, essentially abandoning Kurdish fighters who fought alongside American forces to defeat ISIS militants.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has threatened for months to launch the military operation across the border. He views the Kurdish forces as a threat to his country. Republicans and Democrats have warned that allowing the Turkish attack could lead to a massacre of the Kurds and send a troubling message to American allies across the globe.

US troops “will not support or be involved in the operation” and “will no longer be in the immediate area,” in northern Syria, White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said in an unusual late-Sunday statement that was silent on the fate of the Kurds.

There are about 1,000 US troops in northern Syria, and a senior US official said they will pull back from the area — and potentially depart the country entirely should widespread fighting break out between Turkish and Kurdish forces.

The announcement followed a call between Mr Trump and Mr Erdogan, the White House said.

The decision is a stark illustration of Mr Trump’s focus on ending American overseas entanglements — one of his key campaign promises.

But his goal of swift withdrawals in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan have been stymied by concerns from US officials and American allies about the dangerous voids that would remain. As he faces an impeachment inquiry at home, Mr Trump has appeared more focused on making good on his political pledges, even at the risk of sending a troubling signal to American allies abroad.

Key Republican leaders in Congress appeared taken aback by the move.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, a California Republican, also said in an appearance on Fox News that he had not spoken with Mr Trump about the decision and had concerns.

“I want to make sure we keep our word for those who fight with us and help us,” he said, adding that, “If you make a commitment and somebody is fighting with you. America should keep their word.”

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One of the show’s hosts, Brian Kilmeade, asked Mr McCarthy to try to intervene and “call the president before it’s too late.”

Additional reporting by AP

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