WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and other top Republicans on Tuesday introduced a resolution warning the administration of President Donald Trump against withdrawing US troops from northern Syria.
The measure, according to McConnell, is backed by Republican Sens. James Inhofe (Okla.), Richard Burr (N.C.), Lindsey Graham (S.C.) and Jim Risch (Idaho) — the chairmen of the Armed Services, Intelligence, Judiciary and Foreign Relations committees, respectively, The Hill reported.
“Withdrawing from Syria will invite more of the chaos that breeds terrorism and creates a vacuum our adversaries will certainly fill,” McConnell said from the Senate floor.
The resolution calls on Trump to halt the pullback of US forces and warns that a “precipitous withdrawal” would “create vacuums”. It also urges Trump to rescind his invitation for the Turkish president to visit the White House next month and opposes Ankara’s military action.
“The Senate needs to speak up. We cannot effectively support our partners on the ground without a military presence,” McConnell added.
The Senate GOP resolution comes after the House passed its own resolution last week, with only 60 lawmakers voting against the measure. McConnell has argued he wants something “stronger”, a sign that the House resolution is unlikely to move in the Senate.
“Unfortunately, the resolution crafted by House Democrats is simply not sufficient. It’s not so much wrong as it is badly insufficient,” the Kentucky Republican stated on Tuesday.
Lawmakers have introduced several pieces of legislation as they weigh how to counter Trump’s drawdown in northern Syria and Turkey’s subsequent invasion. McConnell on Tuesday didn’t fully close the door to passing sanctions legislation but warned his colleagues to proceed with caution.
“I’m aware there is some appetite on both sides of the aisle to quickly reach for the toolbox of sanctions … but I caution us against developing a reflex to use sanctions as our tool of first, last and only resort,” McConnell stressed.
On Tuesday, the Trump administration’s special envoy for Syria and the anti-ISIS coalition said he was not consulted on Trump’s decision this month to withdraw US troops from Syria.
Testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Special Envoy James Jeffrey stated that he was not on a phone call between Trump and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan that preceded Trump’s decision but argued that he was “very thoroughly briefed on it”.
Still, pressed by Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) on whether he was apprised of Trump’s decision to withdraw from Syria, Jeffrey noted, “That specific decision, I was not [told] in advance.”
Jeffrey defended the Trump administration to the several senators who were stunned that he wasn’t consulted by arguing that former Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama made decisions without him in Iraq, where he served as a chargé d’affaires and ambassador.
“In my current job, I feel that my views, through [Secretary of State Mike Pompeo], have been brought repeatedly and frequently and, I think in many cases, effectively,” he added.
Asked later by Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) whether he would have advised the president on a plan to pull back without advancing the interests of Syria, Russia, Iran and ISIS (also known as ISIL or Daesh), Jeffrey said he “would have tried”.
“I don’t really know why we have someone with the title special representative for Syria engagement and special envoy to the global coalition to defeat ISIS if they are not consulted before the president takes the most significant single action affecting US interests in Syria and the future of ISIS during his presidency, and I think it speaks to the utter chaos of American foreign policy,” Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) stressed.