Trump’s decision to withdraw US troops from the Syrian border has drawn criticism – inter alia – from EU leaders, Israel and Democrats alike. Moreover, the Syria pullout has sparked criticism from Congressional Republicans, who now appear determined to counter President Trump’s Syria decision.
President Trump’s disdain for the situation in Syria has been evident since his campaign. He ran on the premise of ceasing wars and bringing the troops home. Trump had already announced he sought to withdraw 2,000 US troops from Syria back in January. Syria “was lost long ago,” he fatalistically opined.
His then-Secretary of Defense James Mattis resigned in protest against the announcement. Moreover, internationally, Trump’s plan also caused much criticism. As a result, the US postponed the withdrawal. In a way, his decision now is not a surprise. What is, is the timing of it as well as his reluctance to penalise Turkey’s egregious actions.
With the withdrawal of American soldiers from northern Syria, Trump has triggered a wave of outrage and also allowed the Turkish military to fill the void America has left – with severe geopolitical implications. Trump defended his recent decision by claiming the necessity to bring troops home. Ironically, just on the weekend, troops were deployed to Saudi-Arabia.
However, this time, the outrage is not limited to Democrats. Senator Marco Rubio wrote on Twitter that the US had abandoned the Kurds, now threatened with the destruction by the Turkish military.
Meanwhile, influential Republican Senator Lindsey Graham spoke in a series of tweets of an impulsive, sad and highly dangerous decision Trumps. The move could allow the resurgence of the IS. Graham concluded his case on Fox News of all station, claiming he struggled to distinct between Obama’s decision in Iraq and Trump’s in Syria – both were equally incoherent and dangerous.
Graham then announced a bipartisan resolution in the Senate to impose sanctions on Turkey in the event of a Turkish “invasion” of northern Syria. If Turkish troops attack Kurdish forces there, they would also demand the suspension of NATO membership of Turkey. Graham anticipates that a two-thirds majority in Congress would come to such a resolution, meaning it could overrule any veto by Trump.
Even Senate Majority Leader McConnell warned that there was a danger of a “significant conflict” between Turkey and the Kurdish militias in the case. While Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, accused Trump of “betraying” the US Kurdish allies. McConnell and Pelosi are usually opposed on pretty much any political point of view.
Moreover, a group of Republican and Democratic congressmen said in a joint statement that “the government’s announcement regarding Syria is a misguided and catastrophic blow to our national security interests.”
On Friday, Treasury Secretary Mnuchin announced that Trump would sign an executive order giving the Treasury Department “very significant” new sanctions authorities against Turkey. Despite reports of potential atrocities by the Turkish military against Kurdish fighters as well as civilians, no action has been taken. Which has led Senator Graham to state the executive branch had to “up their game.”
Three days and many reported atrocities, committed by the Turkish military, later, have made a bi-partisan solution on Capitol Hill more conceivable than ever. The Republican criticism is surprising in so far as that the Congressional GOP has been displaying unity against the pending impeachment probe while being utterly impervious towards any controversy surrounding Trump.
Much will depend on whether a bi-partisan approach can be facilitated. If the coalition of the willing succeeds on Capitol Hill, it could send an interesting precedent in constraining a president that, so far, has received carte blanche by his party.