WASHINGTON (AP) — Congressional Republicans have spent a lot of the previous two years making an attempt to restrict public fights with President Donald Trump, both out of occasion loyalty or concern of being on the flawed finish of a presidential tweetstorm.
But that present of unity was put to the take a look at this week when Trump introduced he would withdraw U.S. forces from northern Syria prematurely of an impending Turkish army operation towards Syrian Kurdish militia fighters.
Senior Republican leaders like senators Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and Ted Cruz of Texas all joined Democratic colleagues in publicly criticizing the concept, with Graham even occurring Fox News to label the choice “short-sighted and irresponsible.”
But of all of the challenges and complications that the Trump presidency has created for Republican legislators, what made this challenge the one which induced them to interrupt ranks?
“It’s intense and it’s broader than I expected,” mentioned Steven Cook, a Middle East specialist on the Council on Foreign Relations. “It’s surprising given that we’ve seen how loyal Republicans have been.”
Cook mentioned he believed lots of the Republican critics have been performing out of real concern for the repercussions on the bottom.
“I think it’s fear of a return of the Islamic State more than anything else,” he mentioned.
Personal loyalties towards a staunch U.S. ally and affect from U.S. army management have additionally performed a job, Cook mentioned.
“If the Republicans do listen to anybody, it’s the people in uniform,” mentioned Cook, who mentioned the Pentagon has been “deeply appreciative” of the position performed by the Kurdish militia fighters in Syria.
With the assistance of large American air assist and particular forces help, Kurdish fighters have been the tip of the spear in successful again Islamic State-held territory, together with weeks of brutal street-by-street combating within the ultimate IS strongholds.
“They were the guys on the ground doing a lot of the front-line fighting,” and holding U.S. troops out of hurt’s approach, Cook mentioned. “Thanks to them, U.S. troops didn’t have to do some of the heavy lifting. They saved American lives.”
Tamara Wittes, a senior fellow on the Brookings Institution’s Center for Middle East Policy, mentioned home political concerns could have performed a job as nicely. She speculated that some outstanding Republicans felt uncomfortable defending Trump over the Ukrainian scandal that prompted a House impeachment inquiry.
“I think it’s not just Syria. I think this is about Republicans with a national spotlight feeling the need to show some daylight between them and the president,” she mentioned. “Clearly they’re feeling some need to show they’re not in lockstep.”
Wittes additionally identified a daunting potential knock-on impact if Turkey is allowed to assault the Kurds: a mass jail break by Islamic State detainees. Currently militia members are manning a collection of prisons in Syria containing hundreds of hardcore IS fighters. Those guards would presumably rush to the entrance strains if their comrades confronted the existential risk of the Turkish army machine.
“The only foreign policy issue that Americans really care about is terrorism and the fear of terrorism,” she mentioned. “The fear of ISIS 3.0 is very tangible and something that speaks to Americans.”