Kurdish refugees flee Turkish bombing. (Photo: Rudaw)
Oct. 10, 2019 by David Silverberg
Updated 4:15 pm with comments by Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart.
Rep. Francis Rooney (R-19-Fla.) has joined other members of the Florida congressional delegation to criticize President Donald Trump’s precipitous withdrawal of American forces from northern Syria, which has already sparked a Turkish invasion.
“I urge the President to reverse his decision of removing our troops, and to send a strong message to Turkey—along with our other NATO partners in Europe—that we support the Kurds who have been fighting with us,” Rooney declared in a statement today.
“The administration’s decision to remove our remaining troops from Syria is strategically short-sighted, erodes our credibility amongst our regional partners and fortifies Russia’s position in the conflict. The Syrian Kurds have been a critical ally in the fight to eradicate ISIS, and they continue to be a crucial partner in the stabilization of the region—holding thousands of foreign ISIS prisoners that our European allies refuse to accept and administering refugee camps that ISIS holdouts hope to infiltrate and exploit. Abandoning the Kurds at this time and supporting by default Turkey’s offensive military action will divert Kurdish resources now being used to stabilize the region and will erode global confidence in the US.”
Rooney also warned of the consequences when Trump first wanted to withdraw US forces earlier this year.
“Regardless of the past decisions which drew the United States into the conflict in Syria, we should not abandon our role in the fight against the Islamic State,” Rooney argued. “A withdrawal would give back all that we have achieved and would be an abandonment of our Kurdish allies. The void we would leave will create space for other power players with interests adverse to ours, like Russia and Iran, to gain ground in the Middle East,” he stated in a Feb. 1, 2019 op-ed, “Stay in Syria to counter Iran.”
A member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and a former US ambassador to the Vatican, Rooney has long supported Kurdish aspirations.
“Given our own tradition and the recent history of Iraq and Kurdistan, we should at least consider the potential strategic advantages of Kurdish independence,” Rooney wrote almost exactly two years ago in an op-ed, “Kurdistan Deserves U.S. Support. Here Is Why.”
Rooney argued that the Kurds were more stable politically than Iraq, with which the US is formally allied, independence would strengthen the fight against the Islamic State (contrary to State Department arguments that an independent Kurdistan would weaken it), an independent Kurdistan could provide a secular-religious bridge in the region and hold back Shiite aggression, and that despite their enmity, a Turkish-Kurdish economic relationship was possible.
In another op-ed related to Kurdistan, in November 2017 Rooney drew a contrast between the Kurdish and Catalan drives for independence (“The Differences Between Catalonia and Kurdish Iraq”).
Trump’s withdrawal decision has led to blistering congressional criticism on both sides of the aisle, including from longtime allies.
At 3:38 pm today Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-25-Fla.) tweeted that he was “concerned” about Trump’s decision:
“I strongly support much of the President’s foreign policy. However, I’m concerned about the ramifications of the decision to withdraw from #Syria,” he stated in the second part of a three-part thread. “The Kurds have been instrumental partners in the region, and loyal allies to the US for decades. I hope that this decision will not further destabilize the region, or embolden enemies such as Iran and ISIS.”
Florida’s House Democrats were more vocal:
“Of all of Trump’s foreign policy blunders, this one is particularly damaging and goes against our American values,” stated Rep. Lois Frankel (D-21-Fla). “It’s hard to see how anyone will agree to partner with us on the ground after this. Trump’s betrayal of the Kurds shows he’s willing to throw our allies under the bus.”
Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-20-Fla.) also stated: “The president’s latest impulsive decision is outright dangerous and appalling. In sanctioning Turkish military action against the American-trained Kurdish forces who fought and died on the front lines against the Islamic State, the president has abandoned our allies in Syria and made an egregious strategic error. This will undoubtedly pave the way for massacre and humanitarian disaster. At every turn, this president undermines America’s legitimacy as a global leader and forsakes the values that our nation stands for.”
In the Senate, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) tweeted:
“At request of this administration the Kurds served as the primary ground fighters against ISIS in Syria so U.S. troops wouldn’t have to.
“Then cut deal with Erdogan allowing him to wipe them out.
“Damage to our reputation & national interest will be extraordinary & long lasting.”
In a second tweet he noted (punctuation his):
“We degraded ISIS using Kurd’s as the ground force. Now we have abandoned them & they face annihilation at the hands of the Turkish military
“ISIS could now be reinvigorated when 1000’s of jailed fighters break out when the Kurdish guards are forced to leave to go fight Turkey.”
As of this writing Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) has not issued any statements or made any remarks regarding the president’s decision.
The president has been defending his actions in an ongoing series of tweets. (All Trump tweets can be accessed at Trumptwitterarchive.com, where the latest tweets are posted and can also be searched by topic.)
(To see ongoing coverage of Kurdish events from the Kurdish perspective, check the Kurdish news network, Rudaw.)
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©2019 by David Silverberg