Prominent Republicans Split From Trump Over Decision to Abandon Kurdish Allies in Syria
Prominent Republicans criticized US President Donald Trump on Monday for adopting a policy that effectively abandons America’s Kurdish allies in Syria in the face of an imminent Turkish military onslaught.
Leading the charge against the president’s announcement was the former US ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, who highlighted the decisive role played by Kurdish military forces in the initial defeat of ISIS in Syria and Iraq more than two years ago.
“We must always have the backs of our allies, if we expect them to have our back,” Haley tweeted. “The Kurds were instrumental in our successful fight against ISIS in Syria. Leaving them to die is a big mistake.”
Haley — who was appointed by Trump as US Ambassador to the UN in Jan. 2017, and resigned from the post in Oct. 2018 — included the hashtag #TurkeyIsNotOurFriend in her tweet. Her criticisms of her former boss came just three days after she effusively praised Trump, in an interview with Fox News, for having “a record every American should be proud of.”
Added Haley in that interview: “America is strong again, and it’s because of President Trump’s decisions.”
Trump’s decision to accede to Turkish demands in northern Syria came during a telephone call on Sunday with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. A statement from the White House after the call also emphasized that responsibility for captured ISIS terrorists now lay exclusively with Turkey — despite evidence that Turkey has on several occasions backed the Islamist group.
“The United States will not hold them [ISIS captives] for what could be many years and great cost to the United States taxpayer,” the White House statement said. “Turkey will now be responsible for all ISIS fighters in the area captured over the past two years in the wake of the defeat of the territorial ‘Caliphate’ by the United States.”
The statement made no mention of the thousands of Kurdish fighters killed in the effort to destroy ISIS in both Syria and Iraq.
We must always have the backs of our allies, if we expect them to have our back. The Kurds were instrumental in our successful fight against ISIS in Syria. Leaving them to die is a big mistake. #TurkeyIsNotOurFriend
— Nikki Haley (@NikkiHaley) October 7, 2019
Other Republicans opposing Trump on Monday included Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, normally a backer of the president, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who warned that the White House’s climbdown on supporting the Kurds could be overruled by a “supermajority” vote of the US Senate.
“This decision to abandon our Kurdish allies and turn Syria over to Russia, Iran, & Turkey will put every radical Islamist on steroids,” Graham tweeted acerbically. “Shot in the arm to the bad guys. Devastating for the good guys.”
Graham said that he and Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Maryland) would “introduce bipartisan sanctions against Turkey if they invade Syria and will call for their suspension from NATO if they attack Kurdish forces who assisted the US in the destruction of the ISIS Caliphate.”
Later in the day, Graham stepped up his criticism of Trump with a further series of tweets.
“No matter what President Trump is saying about his decision, it is EXACTLY what President Obama did in Iraq with even more disastrous consequences for our national security,” Graham posted. “Unlike President Obama, I hope President Trump will reassess and take sound military advice.”
In a separate statement, Sen. McConnell reminded Trump that in Jan. 2019, “a supermajority of the US Senate voted for an amendment that expressed bipartisan concern about the continuing threat posed by ISIS and Al Qaeda in Syria, appreciation of the long-term American security interests in Syria and the region, and support for a continued military presence in northeastern Syria.”
Continued the Senate Majority leader: “The conditions that produced that bipartisan vote still exist today. While the physical caliphate has been removed, ISIS and al Qaeda remain dangerous forces in Syria and the ongoing Syrian civil war poses significant security and humanitarian risks.”
Arguing that a “precipitous withdrawal of US forces from Syria” would benefit Russia and its Syrian and Iranian allies alongside the Sunni Islamist terror organizations, McConnell said he urged Trump “to exercise American leadership to keep together our multinational coalition to defeat ISIS and prevent significant conflict between our NATO ally Turkey and our local Syrian counterterrorism partners.”
He concluded: “As we learned the hard way during the Obama Administration, American interests are best served by American leadership, not by retreat or withdrawal.”
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) said that Trump’s decision was a “grave mistake that will have implications far beyond Syria.”
Rubio added, “It would confirm Iran’s view of this administration & embolden then to escalate hostile attacks which in turn could trigger much broader & more dangerous regional war.”
Just spoke to Sen @ChrisVanHollen about situation in Syria.
We will introduce bipartisan sanctions against Turkey if they invade Syria and will call for their suspension from NATO if they attack Kurdish forces who assisted the U.S. in the destruction of the ISIS Caliphate.
— Lindsey Graham (@LindseyGrahamSC) October 7, 2019
* Turkey does not have the capability to keep ISIS from re-emerging and their primary target is the Kurds – not ISIS.
* It would be unwise to believe otherwise.
— Lindsey Graham (@LindseyGrahamSC) October 7, 2019