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McConnell: We must avoid strategic calamity in the Middle East

UPDATE 10/15/19 AT 3:52 P.M.

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) took to the Senate floor Tuesday to express his "grave concern at the events that have unfolded in Syria in recent days".

He said, in part:

Syrian Kurdish forces have stood proudly alongside U.S. forces in the fight against ISIS. Over years of joint effort, their shared sacrifices have put ISIS on its heels and rendered its physical caliphate essentially nonexistent. But leaving the field now would mean leaving the door wide open for a resurgence of this dangerous force and a new iteration of the Islamic State, creating a power vacuum begging for the meddling influence of Russia, leaving northeastern Syria wide open for Iran to extend its reach, unimpeded, all the way from Tehran to the doorstep of our friends in Israel, and destroying the leverage we currently have to compel Bashar Assad to stop his slaughter of the Syrian people and negotiate an end to this terrible conflict and humanitarian catastrophe. 

When it looked like President Trump would withdraw from Syria at the beginning of the year, 70 Senators joined in warning of the risks of precipitously withdrawing from Syria or Afghanistan. The veto-proof majority vote for my amendment to S.1, the Strengthening America’s Security in the Middle East Act, demonstrated strong and bipartisan appreciation of our enduring security interests in the region.

The Senate spoke clearly and said that we must ensure we have set the conditions for an enduring defeat of the terrorists before any withdrawal. Regrettably, many of the Democratic senators running for president, along with my friend the Democratic Leader, parted with this bipartisan consensus and voted against this amendment.

So I hope these aspiring commanders-in-chief are asked to explain how they reconcile their criticisms of the administration today with their votes just a few months ago. Maybe they’ll even be asked on the debate stage this evening.

I am heartened to hear that Vice President Pence will soon lead a delegation to begin immediate talks with Turkey to end this violence.

I expect that our Turkish allies will listen carefully to the anger from Washington, welcome our Vice President, and take steps to repair our important relationship. It would be a tragedy for both of our nations if Turkey’s escalation in Syria imperils our common fight against ISIS and embolden traditional adversaries like Iran and Russia. This would be bad for U.S. interests, but it would be terrible for Turkey. And I look forward to discussing, with members on both sides and with the administration, how the United States of America can stand with our partners and provide strong, principled, and consistent global leadership.

ORIGINAL STORY 10/15/19 AT 3:44 P.M.

WASHINGTON, D.C. (WSIL) — U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) on Tuesday issued a statement in opposition to the actions of President Trump regarding the situation in Syria.

This, as Turkey defies widespread opposition from its NATO allies and enters its seventh day of military operations against Kurdish groups in Syria.

MORE: NATO envoys to hold talks Wednesday on the impact of Turkey’s offensive into northern Syria

Statement from McConnell:

I am gravely concerned by recent events in Syria and by our nation’s apparent response thus far. Turkey is our NATO ally and has legitimate security concerns stemming from the conflict in Syria. But Turkey’s offensive against our Syrian Kurdish partners is jeopardizing years of hard-won progress in the fight against ISIS.

For years, the United States and our Syrian Kurdish partners have fought heroically to corner ISIS and destroy its physical caliphate. Abandoning this fight now and withdrawing U.S. forces from Syria would re-create the very conditions that we have worked hard to destroy and invite the resurgence of ISIS. And such a withdrawal would also create a broader power vacuum in Syria that will be exploited by Iran and Russia, a catastrophic outcome for the United States’ strategic interests.

Withdrawing American leadership from this pivotal region would not serve our nation’s short-, medium-, or long-term interests. It would only make a troubling situation much worse, not only for regional partners such as Israel and Jordan but for the United States as well.

These are the reasons why I co-sponsored legislation earlier this year that warned against leaving Syria or Afghanistan prematurely. A bipartisan supermajority of senators supported it.

I look forward to discussing what the United States can do to avoid a strategic calamity with my Senate colleagues and with senior administration officials when the Senate returns to Washington this week.

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News 3 Staff

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