When President Trump ordered the withdraw of a small force on the Syrian-Turkish border to be withdrawn, the action set off a chain of events that led to a Turkish invasion of Kurdish-held areas in the region, the Turks claimed to suppress terrorists who have been conducting an insurgency in Turkey for decades.
The action also set off a firestorm between American politicians and media personalities who claimed that the president had betrayed Kurdish fighters who had shed blood helping the United States to destroy ISIS and those who were reluctant to maintain American military commitments in the region.
According to Politico, Sen Kevin Cramer, R-N.D. is one of the few American politicians to come to the president’s defense. Cramer sat down with Jake Tapper of CNN on “The State of the Union” Sunday show and laid out his reasoning, He suggested that the president was following the least bad of several horrible options that were available.
“I know we like to oversimplify these complicated relationships, but I think the logical question is: Were we prepared to stay there and fight the Turks, given the fact that the Turks seem to be committed to coming across the border and establishing this militarized zone with or without our staying there?”
Cramer noted that Turkey, albeit now governed by Erdogan, an Islamist who has ambitions to reestablish the Ottoman Empire in the view of some, is a NATO ally. The conundrum would have been, had the United States had maintained troops in the battle zone, which American allies would the United States have gone to war with, Turkey or the Kurds?
Sen Chris Van Hollen, D-Md, expressed a different view while on “Fox News Sunday.” Van Hollen believes that the Administration looks “ridiculous” for begging the Turks to stop slaughtering Kurds while being reluctant to commit American troops to compel that action.
The Democratic senator is co-sponsoring a measure along with Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham to slap an economic embargo on Turkey until it withdraws troops from the region. Graham, incidentally, indicated in a tweet that President Trump is prepared to go along with such measures.
“Just spoke with President @realdonaldTrump. I applaud his decision to work with Congress to stop Turkey’s aggression in Syria through crippling economic sanctions. This decision by President Trump will be a game-changer — in all the wrong ways — for Turkey.”
Reports that ISIS fighters who had been imprisoned by the Kurds have escaped have complicated the situation in Northern Syria. Also, Russia has brokered an agreement between the Kurds and the regime of Bashir Assad to send Syrian government troops to the battle zone to fight the Turkish invasion. The United States is officially opposed to the Assad regime, which has also made common cause with Iran.
The domestic political aspect of the president’s decision to pull back troops from Northern Syria is also a bit murky. According to Pew Research, in a January survey, 43 percent of Americans would support a withdraw from Syria and 45 percent would be opposed. No current polling data exists as of this writing.
That Trump would support economic sanctions in preference of military action is not surprising, considering his record. Trump stopped a military strike against Iran that was planned in response to the downing of a drone at the last minute.
He is said to have decided on a cyber attack instead. He also has imposed crippling sanctions against the Islamic Republic to bring it to heel on issues of nuclear proliferation and support of terrorism.
Trump has been quite reluctant to get into foreign entanglements, having campaigned on the notion of ending “unending wars.” He recently tweeted, “Brian Kilmeade over at @foxandfriends got it all wrong. We are not going into another war between people who have been fighting with each other for 200 years. Europe had a chance to get their ISIS prisoners but didn’t want the cost. “Let the USA pay,” they said…”
The president added, “…Kurds may be releasing some to get us involved. Easily recaptured by Turkey or European Nations from where many came, but they should move quickly. Big sanctions on Turkey coming! Do people really think we should go to war with NATO Member Turkey? Never-ending wars will end!”
Time will tell whether the president or his critics are most correct on the issue.