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Lindsey Graham threatens sanctions if Turkey invades Syria after US withdrawal


He says US withdrawal 'will put every radical Islamist on steroids.'

Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) says that if Turkey invades northern Syria, it will have to deal with the threat of U.S. sanctions and a possible NATO suspension.

"We will introduce bipartisan sanctions against Turkey if they invade Syria and will call for their suspension from NATO if they attack Kurdish forces who assisted the U.S. in the destruction of the ISIS Caliphate," Graham tweeted. "Hope and expect sanctions against Turkey — if necessary — would be veto-proof."

What's the background?

On Sunday night, the White House announced that the United States would be pulling U.S. forces out of northern Syria, seemingly giving the go-ahead for a Turkish offensive against U.S.-aligned Kurdish forces in a region where Turkey wants to resettle Syrian refugees.

President Donald Trump said Monday morning in a Twitter thread that it is "time for us to get out of these ridiculous Endless Wars, many of them tribal, and bring our soldiers home."

"The United States was supposed to be in Syria for 30 days, that was many years ago," Trump said. "We stayed and got deeper and deeper into battle with no aim in sight."

Trump later warned Turkey that if it "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."

What has been the response?

The decision drew considerable criticism from Capitol Hill lawmakers, both Democratic and Republican.

"This decision to abandon our Kurdish allies and turn Syria over to Russia, Iran, & Turkey will put every radical Islamist on steroids," Graham also said in his statement. "Shot in the arm to the bad guys. Devastating for the good guys."

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) called the move a "grave mistake that will have implications far beyond Syria."

Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) said the move "presages another humanitarian disaster."

"Yes, Trump doublecrossed the Kurds," Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) said, "but really a total lack of foreign policy imagination created this crisis."

Even Trump's political opponents, who are opposed to long-standing foreign intervention in the region, took issue with the president's announcement.

"I have long believed the U.S. must responsibly end our military interventions in the Middle East," 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (Vt.) said. "But Trump's abrupt announcement to withdraw from northern Syria and endorse Turkey's incursion is extremely irresponsible."

"U.S. forces should not even be in Syria without congressional approval," Republican-turned-independent Rep. Justin Amash (Mich.) said. "Regardless, Turkey would not take this action without the express consent of the White House."

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), however, spoke out in favor of the withdrawal, saying that he stands with Trump "as he fulfills his promises to stop our endless wars and have a true America First foreign policy."

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