Oct 9, 2019

Senators draft bipartisan sanctions bill over Turkey's assault on Kurds

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks with Van Hollen and Graham in June 2018. Photo: Zach Gibson/Getty Images

Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) released an outline of potential sanctions against Turkey on Wednesday, following the news of a Turkish military offensive against Kurdish forces in northern Syria.

The big picture: Few announcements from the Trump White House have engendered such bipartisan outrage as the news that Turkey was preparing to attack Kurdish forces in Syria — and that the U.S. would be getting out of the way, according to Axios' Dave Lawler.

The state of play: The senators say their sanctions will go into effect upon enactment unless the Trump administration confirms that "Turkey is not operating unilaterally" in Syria and has withdrawn its armed forces from areas it occupied as of Wednesday.

  • Graham told Axios' Jonathan Swan that he predicts he will have more than enough votes to override a presidential veto of the sanctions, saying: "Who the hell supports Erdogan over the Kurds?"
  • Turkey said on Wednesday that its ground forces have crossed into northeastern Syria. The Kurds, which allied with the U.S. in 2015 to fight ISIS, have long feared that Turkey would cross the border and wipe them out if U.S. troops left the region.

What they're saying: Graham believes Trump is making the biggest mistake of his presidency by withdrawing troops from the region.

  • "This is worse than when Obama left Iraq, because you've got so much information as to what happens. This would be a game changer to our national security. This would pave the way to the re-emergence of ISIS," Graham said.

Read the outline:

Go deeper: Turkey's Syria offensive puts alliance with U.S. near breaking point

Go deeper

Lindsey Graham on Trump's Syria decision: "He's putting the nation at risk"

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) is pictured during a hearing. Photo: Zach Gibson/Getty Images

In an interview with Axios on Tuesday night, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) condemned President Trump in his harshest language yet for deciding to withdraw U.S. troops from northern Syria, suggesting Trump is violating his oath of office by allowing Turkey to move in and attack the Kurds.

Driving the news: Graham said Trump is making the biggest mistake of his presidency, against the advice of his national security team, and putting his presidency in peril. "I think he's putting the nation at risk, and I think he's putting his presidency at risk," Graham said. "And I hope he will adjust his policies like he did before. That would actually be a sign of real leadership."

Go deeperArrowOct 9, 2019

Where it stands: Turkey's offensive into Syria

Turkish forces gather in Syria's al-Bab town on Oct. 11. Photo: Zein Al Rifai via Getty Images

Kurdish fighters in northern Syria said they prevented a second jailbreak attempt on Friday at a detention camp for ISIS family members, the New York Times reports, just 3 days after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced a military offensive in the region.

The latest: The Turkish military captured the center of the Syrian town Ras al-Ayn on Saturday — its "most significant gain" since the start of the offensive, AP reports. 28 Syrian civilians have been killed as of Saturday, per counts from a war monitor cited by AFP and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The U.N. estimates 100,000 Syrian residents have evacuated to the south.

Go deeperArrowUpdated Oct 12, 2019

Republicans condemn Turkish assault on Kurds in wake of Trump's Syria decision

Smoke following Turkish bombardment on Syrian town of Ras al-Ain. Photo: Delil Souleiman/AFP via Getty Images

Republican members of Congress on Wednesday harshly condemned Turkey's ongoing military offensive against U.S.-allied Kurdish fighters in northern Syria, which follows President Trump's decision to withdraw U.S. forces from the area.

The big picture: Some of the most intense criticism of Trump's Syria decision, which cleared the way for Turkey to attack Kurdish fighters that they consider terrorists, has come from the president's closest allies in Congress. Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) are drafting a bipartisan bill to sanction Turkey for attacking the primarily-Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces, which partnered with the U.S. in 2015 in the fight against ISIS.

Go deeperArrowOct 9, 2019