Trump’s Syria Moves Face Heavy Criticism

President Trump's latest Syria move is coming under heavy criticism even from fellow Republicans.

Within hours after the announcement that President Trump had agreed with Turkish President Erdogan to remove American troops from Northern Syria in expectation of a Turkish invasion, Republicans who have typically rushed to the defense of the President were instead coming out to criticize the decision in some of the harshest language we’ve seen from the GOP since the start of the Trump Presidency:

President Trump faced a swift torrent of Republican criticism Monday as lawmakers rebuked his plan to withdraw troops from northeast Syria, a move Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said would undermine U.S. national security and potentially bolster Islamic State terrorists.

McConnell (R-Ky.), in a rare public split with Trump, said that a supermajority in the Senate disagreed with the president’s abrupt withdrawal announcement, raising the specter of veto-proof action to oppose the decision.

“A precipitous withdrawal of U.S. forces from Syria would only benefit Russia, Iran, and the Assad regime,” McConnell said in a statement Monday. “And it would increase the risk that ISIS and other terrorist groups regroup.”

McConnell’s statement, in which he called on Trump to “exercise American leadership” and reconsider his plan to withdraw troops from Syria’s border with Turkey, echoed the comments of other Republicans who condemned the president’s decision Monday. The mounting opposition means that Trump is facing some of the sharpest criticism he has received from his party at the same time that his political survival could be in the hands of Republican senators forming a bulwark against a growing impeachment threat.

Several senators said Monday that Trump’s move would undermine U.S. credibility, because it would mean abandoning U.S.-allied Kurdish fighters ahead of a long-threatened Turkish offensive into northern Syria.

“This betrayal of the Kurds will also severely harm our credibility as an ally the world over,” Sen. Patrick J. Toomey (R-Pa.) said in a statement.

“President Trump should rethink this decision immediately.”

Responding to the Republican criticism Monday, Trump said that he had”consulted with everybody” but held back from his usual tactic of attacking any critics, saying that he respectfully disagreed with those opposed to his decision.

“I could name other people who are thrilled,” he told reporters.

While Democrats roundly criticized the troop withdrawal, the outpouring of opposition from the president’s party stood out.

(…)

Most Republicans have been reluctant to criticize Trump’s calls for Ukraine and China to investigate former vice president Joe Biden, a political opponent, and his son Hunter — acts that have become central to Democrats’ impeachment investigation.

But Trump’s move to draw down troops in Syria, announced Sunday night in a White House statement, opened him up to direct criticism from some of the lawmakers who have tried to defend him in the impeachment inquiry.

Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), who has called impeachment attempts “ridiculous,” blasted Trump’s Syria decision Monday.

“So sad. So dangerous,” he said on Twitter. “President Trump may be tired of fighting radical Islam. They are NOT tired of fighting us.”

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), who defended Trump by saying the president was not being serious when he called on China to investigate Biden, criticized the Syria move.

“If reports about US retreat in #Syria are accurate, the Trump administration has made a grave mistake that will have implications far beyond Syria,” he said on Twitter.

Trump’s decision, which has been widely criticized by national security analysts and cast his entire strategy in the region into doubt, has even faced criticism from corners of the Republican Party that have been the most loyal to him:

Some evangelical Christian leaders aligned with Republicans also condemned the decision, warning that Turkish aggressions in northern Syrian could imperil Christian communities there.

“The president of the United States is in danger of losing the mandate of heaven if he permits this to happen,” Pat Robertson said on the Christian Broadcasting Network’s “The 700 Club.”

For his part, the President came to his own defense on Twitter, insisting that he had placed limits on what the Turks could do:

If you’re scratching your head wondering what Trump meant in this word salad, you’re not alone. For one thing, it is unclear exactly what Trump would consider being “off-limits” and it isn’t at all clear that he made any such limits clear to President Erdogan. If he did, he arguably owes it to the Ameican public and to Congress to explain what those limits are and what he would do if the Turks crossed this supposed red line that he drew. In reality, of course, there’s very little that he can do if the Turks use the invasion, which is supposedly for the purpose of establishing a “safe zone” for Syrian refugees as an excuse to go after the Kurdish Syrian Defense Force and/or level punitive strikes at Kurdish civilian areas in the north.

Military action is off the table, of course, because the United States obviously doesn’t have the forces to take such action and because Turkey is a NATO ally and we’re simply not going to take such action against a NATO ally. The same goes for significant economic sanctions, especially since Turkey is the host for one of the most important NATO/American airbases in the region. Instead, the best that could be hoped for is some strong rebuking language but even that is probably too much to hope for with this President.

The criticism that the President faced yesterday in the wake of his decision from his fellow Republicans stands out largely because it is one of the few times in the nearly three years that he’s been President that we’ve seen Republicans criticize a move by the White House and the President. It also stands in marked contrast to their response to the proof that he solicited foreign nations such as Ukraine and China to provide him with damaging information about a political rival. Both of these are serious matters, of course, but the contrast between how the GOP reacts to a move that endangers the Kurds while either refusing to react or defending actions that clearly threaten the very core of American democracy. Why that is the case is something I’ll leave for the reader to ponder.

FILED UNDER: Donald Trump, National Security, Politicians, US Politics
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. michael reynolds says:

    So, not his racism.

    Not his 12,000 lies.

    Not the creepy perving.

    Not his going ass-up to Putin.

    Not his trashing of allies.

    Not his blatant corruption.

    Not his attacks on the rule of law.

    This is what it takes. Ooooookay, Republicans, whatever.

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  2. Sleeping Dog says:

    And Tiny seems completely surprised by the reaction of his supplicants fellow repugs.

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  3. sam says:

    Why all the tsuris? After all, the president has said:

    As I have stated strongly before, and just to reiterate, if Turkey does anything that I, in my great and unmatched wisdom, consider to be off limits, I will totally destroy and obliterate the Economy of Turkey (I’ve done before!).

    Could any of them claim to have great and unmatched wisdom? Of course not. Small people eclipsed by this son of New York.

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  4. Scott says:

    If it wasn’t yet another betrayal of the Kurds, I would agree with the move. We don’t understand the terrain and just need to get out. Syria would be more stable with a strong Assad (and maybe Israel would be safer too). The common theme is that ISIS, Iran, and Russia are the winners as if they are a team. No, Iran was just as instrumental as the Kurds in bottling up ISIS (I was going to say destroy but that is not really true) and hates them just as much. There is so much “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” action going on that a simple transactional President like Trump is totally out of his depth.

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  5. CSK says:

    “I’ve done before!” What does that mean? That he’s destroyed Turkey’s economy before?

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  6. OzarkHillbilly says:

    For one thing, it is unclear exactly what Trump would consider being “off-limits” and it isn’t at all clear that he made any such limits clear to President Erdogan. If he did, he arguably owes it to the Ameican public and to Congress….

    to release the transcripts!!!

    Both of these are serious matters, of course, but the contrast between how the GOP reacts to a move that endangers the Kurds while either refusing to react or defending actions that clearly threaten the very core of American democracy. Why that is the case is something I’ll leave for the reader to ponder.

    Whatever could it be? Ooooo… Ooooo… I know I know, pick me pick me pick meeeee….

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  7. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @CSK: I figure he’s referring to the US economy, which isn’t destroyed yet, but he’s working on it.

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  8. CSK says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: Sometimes I wonder if Trump saw how well gibberish worked for Sarah Palin and decided to emulate her.

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  9. CSK says:

    Trump is pulling out of the Open Skies Treaty. Another birthday present for Vlad.

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  10. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @CSK: As fluent as he is in Gibberish, I think he thought every utterance she made was absolute genius.

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  11. Kathy says:

    Maybe he was reading some old comics and decided to try to come across as a super villain. A stupid, lazy, incompetent super villain.

    ReplyReply
  12. de stijl says:

    Trump is known for habitually stiffing contractors after the project is complete.

    This was entirely predictable.

    ReplyReply
  13. CSK says:

    @Kathy: I don’t think they make tights big enough.

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  14. Jay L Gischer says:

    The idea of pulling out of Syria was floated last December, I think, and I recall Sen. Graham saying then that if the administration went through with it, “I will become your enemy”. There is some sort of line in the sand here that they would prefer to keep quiet, but Trump being Trump, can’t completely do so.

    There are other bits of this elsewhere. For instance, the unanimous vote in the Senate that the whistleblower document should be handed over. And Russia sanctions passing the Senate 98-0 or something. And so on.

    All of this makes me think we don’t really know what those Senators know about Trump, or what’s going to make them jump.

    Also, this is the sort of thing that makes me skeptical that, for instance, the WH has Kompromat on Graham. He’s just been put in a very difficult position by Trump and right-wing media.

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  15. Kathy says:

    In reality, of course, there’s very little that he can do if the Turks use the invasion, which is supposedly for the purpose of establishing a “safe zone” for Syrian refugees as an excuse to go after the Kurdish Syrian Defense Force and/or level punitive strikes at Kurdish civilian areas in the north.

    Well, no. In reality there was much even Dennison could do. he could have kept US troops in place, because Turkey’s not going to attack a NATO ally.

    Having withdrawn said troops, then there’s nothing he can do, but rant and rave and blame someone else when America’s erstwhile allies get slaughtered.

    I’m sure he didn’t even secure a promise from Erdogan not to cross certain lines or go past certain limits. because Dennison simply doesn’t give a damn about allies. But even if he had, it would be like extracting a promise from a scorpion not to sting the turtle carrying him across the river.

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  16. Teve says:

    lots of women Democrats like Elizabeth Warren and Nancy Pelosi and Kamala Harris have criticized Trump for this move, so we’re probably hours from Trumpers deciding the Kurds are abortion-loving libtards who deserve to be massacred.

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  17. Hal_10000 says:

    Over and over again, we see that establishment Republicans like Graham think they can ride the whirlwind of Trump only to discover that it is riding them.

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  18. de stijl says:

    @Hal_10000:

    Graham knows which side of the toast is buttered.

    He (and other like-minded folk)* know they cannot go rogue else they be primaried and defeated. The base is still extremely into Trump.

    He* is riding the whirlwind, but he* is getting the judges he wants, and jacking up the deficit via idiotic tax schemas to produce future pressure for slashing all of the New Deal programs after Trump loses in 2020.

    Desperate for the benefits of an R President, but desperate to avoid the taint of Trump.

    It’s a long con.

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