FILE - In this Sept. 25, 2019, file photo, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., takes questions from reporters at the Capitol in Washington. Congressional Republicans have spent most of the past two years studiously avoiding any public fights with President Donald Trump, either out of party loyalty or fear of being on the wrong end of a presidential tweetstorm. That public show of unity ended emphatically when Trump announced he would be withdrawing U.S. forces from northern Syria in advance of an impending Turkish military operation against Syrian Kurdish militia fighters. Graham, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and Ted Cruz of Texas all joined Democratic colleagues in publicly criticizing the idea, with Graham even going on Fox News to label the decision “short-sighted and irresponsible.” (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File) Photo: AP
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Trump's Syria withdrawal plan ends 2 years of GOP unity

14 Comments
By ASHRAF KHALIL

Congressional Republicans have spent most of the past two years studiously avoiding any public fights with President Donald Trump, either out of party loyalty or fear of being on the wrong end of a presidential tweetstorm.

That public show of unity ended this week when Trump announced he would withdraw U.S. forces from northern Syria in advance of an impending Turkish military operation against Syrian Kurdish militia fighters.

Senior Republican leaders like senators Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and Ted Cruz of Texas all joined Democratic colleagues in publicly criticizing the idea, with Graham even going on Fox News to label the decision "short-sighted and irresponsible."

But of all the challenges and headaches that the Trump presidency has created for Republican legislators, what made this issue the one that caused them to break ranks?

"It's intense and it's broader than I expected," said Steven Cook, a Middle East specialist at the Council on Foreign Relations. "It's surprising given that we've seen how loyal Republicans have been."

Cook said he believed many of the Republican critics were acting out of genuine concern for the repercussions on the ground.

"I think it's fear of a return of the Islamic State more than anything else," he said.

Personal loyalties toward a staunch U.S. ally and influence from U.S. military leadership have also played a role, Cook said.

"If the Republicans do listen to anybody, it's the people in uniform," said Cook, who said the Pentagon has been "deeply appreciative" of the role played by the Kurdish militia fighters in Syria.

With the help of massive American air support and special forces assistance, Kurdish fighters were the tip of the spear in winning back Islamic State-held territory, including weeks of brutal street-by-street fighting in the final IS strongholds.

"They were the guys on the ground doing a lot of the front-line fighting," and keeping U.S. troops out of harm's way, Cook said. "Thanks to them, U.S. troops didn't have to do some of the heavy lifting. They saved American lives."

Tamara Wittes, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution's Center for Middle East Policy, said domestic political considerations may have played a role as well. She speculated that some prominent Republicans felt uncomfortable defending Trump over the Ukrainian scandal that prompted a House impeachment inquiry.

"I think it's not just Syria. I think this is about Republicans with a national spotlight feeling the need to show some daylight between them and the president," she said. "Clearly they're feeling some need to show they're not in lockstep."

Wittes also pointed out a frightening potential knock-on effect if Turkey is allowed to attack the Kurds: a mass prison break by Islamic State detainees. Currently militia members are manning a series of prisons in Syria containing thousands of hardcore IS fighters. Those guards would presumably rush to the front lines if their comrades faced the existential threat of the Turkish military machine.

"The only foreign policy issue that Americans really care about is terrorism and the fear of terrorism," she said. "The fear of ISIS 3.0 is very tangible and something that speaks to Americans."

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14 Comments

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The Republicans remind me of the LDP here in Japan, they staunchly refuse to say anything against Abe, even when they know he is wrong!

5 ( +6 / -1 )

The Kurds do the heavy lifting in the fight against ISIS, which was created by Bush II's illegal war on Iraq, and Donny thanks them by throwing them under Turkish tanks. This further demonstrates that Donny cannot be trusted.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

The only thing that can save the Kurds now from the invasion of the Turks is if they can dish up some oil dirt on the Bidens and do a "kurd pro quo" with ol' orange Flip-Flop in Washington.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Contrary to Trump's greatest wisdom the Turks have already started shelling the Kurds.

The Kurds are holding about 15,000 ISS fighters, if they have to retreat from the Truks those fighters will be released to fight another day.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

No worries, these guy will be returning to their usual defense of Trump by next week.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Amazing - the spineless Repubs defend Trump when he colludes with Russians, says some white supremacists are very fine people, labels a city in the US "infested", insults a Gold Star family, and trashes one of their true statesmen (McCain) - but finally speak out when he throws the Kurds under the bus....

But I agree, as more and more of Ukraine-gate comes out, proving Donnie's corruption and criminal behavior, they'll be back on TV saying "he was only joking"....

Cowards and sycophants...

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Senior Republican leaders like senators Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky

With McConnell and Lindsey it's their respective bank accounts first, which means look at who all in the US, especially those in big finance, big energy, big defense and other bigs, plus those around the globe, contribute to their campaign war chests.

Follow the money first. Especially for powerful Republicans. Who are led by Trump.

They care for their own wealth first, the wealth of their families next, then their fellow elite, and little if anything about the 99%. #butyouguys #backatcha

1 ( +1 / -0 )

The anti-Trumpers here are too funny. If it was Obama withdrawing troops from Syria, you'd be applauding him.

Next is Afghanistan. 18 years is long enough.

-8 ( +0 / -8 )

The anti-Trumpers here are too funny. If it was Obama withdrawing troops from Syria, you'd be applauding him.

Because he'd be doing it right; in consultation with our allies in the region and the Kurds.

Donnie thinks he can deflect from his impeachment so he fires off a tweet from the bathroom at 3:00AM without talking to anyone else. Well, except maybe Putin.

Next is Afghanistan. 18 years is long enough.

Trump: Russia - Taliban - we're leaving - it's all yours. US military members and vets who served and died in Afghanistan - too bad....

1 ( +1 / -0 )

The anti-Trumpers here are too funny. 

its Republicans also, the whole issue is whether leaving the Kurds, an allie who have fought and died along Americans to fend for themselves. They have Turkey in the nth that want to kill them Asaad backed by Russia in the Sth who want them dead also, they will be obliterated if left to defend themselves. Trumpsters dont seem to see any problems with that. They have about as many morals as Trump himself

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Even Assad liked having the Kurds as a sort of neutral buffer in his north and west.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Camp Lindsay turning on the orange moron. Whatever next...

0 ( +1 / -1 )

The anti-Trumpers here are too funny. If it was Obama withdrawing troops from Syria, you'd be applauding him.

Because he'd be doing it right

Bwahahahaha, oh yeah, Obama did such a bang-up job getting us out of Iraq whilst decimating ISIS. Oh, wait...

the orange moron

Watch the "orange moron" get re-elected in a landslide next year.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

The anti-Trumpers here are too funny. If it was Obama withdrawing troops from Syria, you'd be applauding him.

Because he'd be doing it right

Bwahahahaha, oh yeah, Obama did such a bang-up job getting us out of Iraq whilst decimating ISIS. Oh, wait...

And what has the Orange Moron done over the past three years other than exchange love letters with Otto Warmbier's murderer Kim and sell out our allies the Kurds? Oh yea, he had a couple back-slappin best-bro meetings with his bud Vlad.

the orange moron

Watch the "orange moron" get re-elected in a landslide next year.

Elected to push the Library cart at Rikers Island...

0 ( +1 / -1 )

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