McConnell Rips Trump's Syria Withdrawal
Updated: Oct 15, 2019
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is condemning President Trump's abandonment of Kurdish forces and withdrawal from Syria in some of the harshest language he has used against an action by Trump.
“I am gravely concerned by recent events in Syria and by our nation’s apparent response thus far," begins the statement from McConnell, released Monday afternoon.
Those recent events are Trump pulling U.S. forces out of regions controlled by Kurds, allowing Turkey to invade, killing the recent U.S. allies and reportedly allowing hundreds of ISIS fighters to go free from Kurdish-controlled prison camps.
"Turkey’s offensive against our Syrian Kurdish partners is jeopardizing years of hard-won progress in the fight against ISIS," McConnell said. “For years, the United States and our Syrian Kurdish partners have fought heroically to corner ISIS and destroy its physical caliphate."
McConnell argued that abandoning the fight with the Kurds will "invite the resurgence of ISIS," and offer an opportunity for Iran and Russia, which is a "a catastrophic outcome for the United States’ strategic interests."
Indeed, Kurds have already cut a deal the government of Bashar al-Assad and his Russia-backed forces to survive.
McConnell, who never names Trump, sees no silver lining in Trump's moves.
“Withdrawing American leadership from this pivotal region would not serve our nation’s short-, medium-, or long-term interests," he said. "It would only make a troubling situation much worse, not only for regional partners such as Israel and Jordan but for the United States as well."
And in what can be read as a warning to the president, McConnell noted that he sponsored a resolution earlier this year that passed with a bipartisan supermajority that argued against departing Syria or Afghanistan "prematurely."
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), generally a Trump cheerleader, has already proposed stiff sanctions against Turkey, and says he has the support of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for the endeavor.
McConnell's reference to a bipartisan supermajority is a not-subtle reminder that he has the votes to override any presidential veto of any measure Congress decides to pass, and comes as some Republicans have expressed increasing dissatisfaction with Trump over his attempts to manipulate Ukraine's leader in the matter that is now at the heart of the House's impeachment inquiry.
Trump appeared unimpressed, though, tweeting only moments after McConnell's condemnation that Assad can protect the Kurds, and it's fine with him if Russia or anyone else helps because it so far away.
"After defeating 100% of the ISIS Caliphate, I largely moved our troops out of Syria. Let Syria and Assad protect the Kurds and fight Turkey for their own land," Trump tweeted. "I said to my Generals, why should we be fighting for Syria ... and Assad to protect the land of our enemy? Anyone who wants to assist Syria in protecting the Kurds is good with me, whether it is Russia, China, or Napoleon Bonaparte. I hope they all do great, we are 7,000 miles away!"
Trump added soon thereafter that he would ramp up sanctions on Turkey on his own, including 50 percent tariffs on steel, and ending talks on a trade deal.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi responded to Trump's sanctions announcement by pointing out that he is the one who cleared the way for Turkey. And unlike McConnell, she does not avoid mentioning the name "Trump," or pulling punches.
“President Trump has unleashed an escalation of chaos and insecurity in Syria. His announcement of a package of sanctions against Turkey falls very short of reversing that humanitarian disaster.
“President Trump gave Turkey the green light to attack our Kurdish partners, betraying the thousands of fighters who gave their lives to keep the world safe from the barbarism of ISIS. His erratic decision-making is threatening lives, risking regional security and undermining America’s credibility in the world.
“Members of Congress, Republican and Democrat, continue to join together to condemn the President’s actions and urge him to reverse course. Last week, Chairman Engel and Ranking Republican Member McCaul introduced H. Res. 625, a bipartisan resolution to reject the President’s dangerous decision in Syria immediately, and this week we will proceed with bipartisan, bicameral action to oppose this irresponsible decision.
“The American people and our allies expect and deserve real leadership from Washington.”