Today the House issued a clear rebuke against President Trump’s lifting of sanctions against Turkey for its offensive in Syria, with the House voting 403-16 to approve sanctions against Turkey. That vote showed even Republicans disapprove of Trump’s stance toward Turkey, which launched an offensive against the Kurds in northeastern Syria just after President Trump abruptly agreed to withdraw U.S. troops from the area; 176 House Republicans voted for today’s measure, with just 15 Republicans voting against it.
Trump’s troop withdrawal has been broadly condemned as abandoning an ally, the Kurds, who for the last three years have helped the United States in its fight against ISIS. Trump as a person appears to expect loyalty toward him from others without feeling obliged to return the sentiment, a character flaw Trump appears to carry over into his foreign policy. Another criticism of Trump enabling the Turkish offensive by withdrawing troops is that it increases the likelihood of a resurgence of ISIS, as ISIS fighters have escaped detention in the area as Kurds had to stop guarding them amidst the Turkish attacks. Faced with tremendous backlash over his troop withdrawal, Trump did not change course, but did eventually agree to sanctions against Turkey, only to lift them after he declared victory when a ceasefire was negotiated. In announcing that ceasefire, Trump neglected to note that hundreds of Kurds had died and tens of thousands of Kurds had been rendered refugees by Turkey’s actions, which some have called an ethnic cleansing of the Kurds by Turkey. According to The Hill:
The House on Tuesday easily approved sanctions against Turkey over its offensive in northern Syria against Kurdish forces. The measure passed 403-16 with 176 Republicans voting in support and just 15 opposing the bill. The sanctions offer a rare bipartisan rebuke of President Trump’s policies, while also underscoring the growing divide between Congress and a NATO ally. …“Rather than hold Turkey accountable for how they’ve conducted this bloody campaign, President Trump has given them a free pass,” House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) said. …“Over a time, we’ve seen a pattern emerge. The president of the United States stokes a crisis and then steps in with some sort of half measure in a failed attempt to look like a great deal is happening,” Engel said. “You can’t be the arsonist and the fireman at the same time.” Engel added that Turkey’s offensive has been “ethnic cleansing at its worst.” …Trump himself placed sanctions on Turkey, though he lifted them after a five-day ceasefire brokered by Vice President Pence. Turkey agreed to the ceasefire in order to allow the Kurds to evacuate from a so-called safe zone.
The support by House Republicans for this measure today suggests it would also succeed in the Republican-majority Senate, but here we have Trump’s frequent guardian at the gate, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who has balked at sanctioning a NATO ally and may bar the measure from coming to a vote in the Senate, a tactic McConnell frequently employs in order to serve the Trump administration’s agenda. We shall have to see if the measure does in fact make it to a vote in the Senate. The landslide House vote, however, including a landslide among members of Trump’s own party, shows again just how far apart Congress and Trump are on the issue of Syria and Turkey’s offensive there against the Kurds.