Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and other top Republican senators introduced a resolution Tuesday in opposition to President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from Syria, warning that his decision has benefited Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, ISIS, Russia and Iran.
“If not arrested, withdrawing from Syria will invite more of the chaos that breeds terrorism and creates a vacuum our adversaries will certainly fill,” McConnell said on the Senate floor.
McConnell said if the President doesn’t halt the withdrawal, Russia “will gain more leverage” in the Middle East, Iran-backed forces could gain greater access to a “strategic corridor that runs all the way from Tehran to the very doorstep of Israel” and the Assad regime will be invited to “reassert its oppressive control” over northeastern Syria.
He also urged Trump to rescind his invitation of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to the White House until a “more enduring cease-fire” is struck between Turkish and Kurdish forces.
The measure tries to tie the hands of the commander-in-chief by requiring the President to report to Congress that ISIS and al Qaeda have been defeated “before initiating any further significant withdrawal” of US troops from the region.
McConnell did not say when the Senate would take up the resolution.
Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr said Congress “didn’t have an opportunity” to work out its disagreements with the administration before the president made his decision.
“Congress has a voice,” said Burr, a Republican from North Carolina. “And now is the time … to exercise it.”
After Trump’s announcement, Turkey advanced into Syria in order to force out Kurdish forces it views as terrorists from parts northeastern Syria, where it would like to resettle around 2 million Syrian refugees.
Republicans and Democrats have strongly protested Trump’s decision to remove troops from Syria and position many of them in western Iraq, voting 354-60 in the House on a separate resolution opposing the pullout.
But there’s disagreements in Congress over how to try to pressure the administration and Turkey to reverse their moves.
While McConnell has strongly condemned Turkey’s incursion into Syria, he urged Congress on Tuesday to consider the repercussions of punishing a NATO ally in the same way the US punishes “rogue states.” He cautioned his colleagues to evaluate whether the sanctions would also hurt US companies or its allies.
The strongest proponents of sanctioning Turkey objected to McConnell’s comments.
Sen. Chris Van Hollen, a Democrat from Maryland, said that a ceasefire between Turkey and Kurds will soon end and warned that Erdogan “has said he will resume the slaughter of our allies, the Syrian Kurds, and will engage in ethnic cleansing.”
“This is no time for dithering,” said Van Hollen. “We need to impose bipartisan sanctions now.”