WASHINGTON: A key Republican ally of Donald Trump was to introduce tough sanctions against Turkey in the US Senate on Thursday, joining Democratic lawmakers in a sign of the bipartisan fury sparked by the president’s abrupt decision to pull American troops out of Syria.
The Turkey Sanctions Bill is being presented in the Republican-majority Senate a day after the House of Representatives overwhelmingly condemned the withdrawal, rebuking the White House in a rare show of cross-party unity.
A total of 129 members of Trump’s Republican Party joined Democrats as the House voted 354-60 to denounce the pullout of US troops from northern Syria, which paved the way for a Turkish offensive against Kurdish militants.
While the House resolution just expressed disapproval, the bill being introduced in the Senate by Republican Senator Lindsey Graham and Democratic Senator Chris Van Hollen has actual teeth, imposing wide-ranging mandatory sanctions on Turkey.
Graham has been one of the staunchest defenders of Trump in his fight against impeachment but he has been extremely critical of his withdrawal of support for the Kurds, who have been US allies in the fight against the IS.
Trump lashed out at Graham on Wednesday, saying the senator from South Carolina would “like to stay in the Middle East for the next thousand years with thousands of soldiers fighting other people’s wars”. “I want to get out of the Middle East,” Trump said. “Let them fight their own wars.”
Graham shot back, tweeting that “When it comes to America’s national security I will NEVER be quiet.” “Listen to your own national security team who are telling you the consequences of your decision and the impact it will have on our nation,” Graham added.
He voiced hope that Trump was correct in his belief “that Turkey’s invasion of Syria is of no concern to us, abandoning the Kurds won’t come back to haunt us, ISIS won’t reemerge, and Iran will not fill the vacuum created by this decision”.
Faced with criticism from Republicans and Democrats, Trump this week slapped sanctions on top Turkish officials and imposed punitive tariffs on Turkish imports, vowing to “destroy” the Turkish economy unless Ankara relents.
The Graham-Van Hollen bill goes further, imposing sanctions on the US assets of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and several members of his cabinet. It bans sales of American equipment to the Turkish military and threatens sanctions against any foreign company or individual selling weaponry to the Turkish armed forces.
Published in Dawn, October 18th, 2019