WASHINGTON DC (Kurdistan 24) – On Monday, a bipartisan group of 17 Congressmen called on President Donald Trump to rescind his invitation to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who will meet with Trump later on Wednesday.
Led by Rep. Eliot Engel (D, New York), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, the Congressmen wrote, in a letter to Trump, “President Erdogan’s decision to invade northern Syria on October 9 has had disastrous consequences for US national security, has led to deep divisions in the NATO alliance and caused a humanitarian crisis.”
“Turkish forces have killed civilians and members of the Syrian Democratic Forces, a critical US partner in the fight against ISIS, and displaced over one hundred thousand people from their homes,” they affirmed.
On Tuesday, the top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Michael McCaul (Texas), issued a similar statement.
“I remain extremely concerned by reports of violence in northern Syria committed by Turkey and Turkish backed forces, including reports of possible war crimes,” McCaul said, affirming that “Turkey must end its incursion in Syria immediately.”
Both the congressional letter and McCaul’s statement also criticized Erdogan’s increasingly close dealings with Russia. They include Turkey’s purchase of the S-400 air defense system, “despite the threat” it “poses to the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and NATO interoperability, while rejecting the United States offer to sell Turkey the Patriot system,” the Congressmen wrote.
Amb. John Bolton, Trump’s National Security Adviser until two months ago, is also extremely critical of Trump’s dealings with Erdogan.
Last week, speaking privately to a group at Morgan Stanley, a major financial firm, Bolton said that “he was most frustrated with Trump over his handling of Turkey,” NBC News reported on Tuesday.
Bolton described the “broad bipartisan support in Congress to sanction Turkey” for its purchase of the S-400. He called Trump’s reluctance to do so, “unreasonable,” even saying that “he believes there is a personal or business relationship dictating Trump’s position on Turkey, because none of his advisers are aligned with him on the issue,” NBC stated.
Asked by Kurdistan 24 on Tuesday, if Turkey had shown any indication that it was reconsidering its position on the S-400, a senior administration official responded, “We’re not going to talk about sensitive diplomatic discussions.”
The Washington Post reported late on Tuesday that the administration was seeking a “workaround” that might allow Turkey to retain the S-400 and avoid congressionally mandated sanctions, if “it did not unpack and deploy” the missile system.
Such a solution, the Post suggested, would also allow Turkey to resume its role in the F-35 program, from which it was dropped, after it began receiving the S-400.
If so, that would mark a significant retreat from the position the US held in August. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper rejected the idea then, saying, “I’ve been very clear in both my public comments and privately with my Turkish counterpart. It’s either the F-35 or the S-400. It’s not park one in the garage and roll the other one out. It’s one or the other.”
Senators have also voiced strong criticism of Erdogan’s visit. “It’s absolutely shameful that President Trump has invited President Erdogan to the White House after Erdogan attacked our Syrian Kurdish allies” and Turkish-backed militias “have committed what this administration itself describes as war crimes,” said Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D, Maryland), as the Post reported.
Van Hollen has already sponsored legislation to impose sanctions on Turkey, but on Tuesday, he, along with Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R, Tennessee), introduced another bill to sanction Ankara for its crackdown on critics of its assault on Syria and other steps that it has taken against free speech.
‘We must be holding President Erdogan accountable for these abuses, not rolling out the red carpet for a White House visit,” Van Hollen affirmed.
Rep. Liz Cheney (R, Wyoming), a member of the House Republican leadership and daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, wrote Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Monday about yet another issue.
Cheney called on Pompeo to refuse entry into the US of any of Erdogan’s bodyguards who attacked Americans in 2017, the last time the Turkish President visited Washington, The Hill reported.
“Erdogan’s so-called ‘security detail’ brutally attacked peaceful demonstrators outside the Turkish ambassador’s residence,” Cheney wrote.
“The Erdogan regime’s use of violence against innocent civilians anywhere is inhumane, uncivilized and unacceptable,” she affirmed.