Graham shifts on Syria: President Trump ‘thinking outside the box’

by WorldTribune Staff, October 21, 2019

One of the most vocal critics of President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw U.S. troops from northeastern Syria appears to have changed his stance.

Sen. Lindsey Graham says he now believes “historic solutions” are possible.

Sen. Lindsey Graham. / C-SPAN

Speaking with Fox News on Oct. 20, the South Carolina Republican said a conversation he had with Trump over the weekend had given him optimism that a solution could be reached in which the security of Turkey and the Kurds was guaranteed and Islamic State (ISIS) would be contained.

“I am increasingly optimistic that we can have some historic solutions in Syria that have eluded us for years if we play our cards right,” Graham said.

“President Trump is thinking outside the box,” Graham said. “The president appreciates what the Kurds have done. He wants to make sure ISIS does not come back. I expect we will continue to partner with the Kurds in Eastern Syria to make sure ISIS does not re-emerge.”

Graham added that Trump was prepared to use U.S. air power over a demilitarized zone occupied by international forces, adding that the use of air power could help ensure ISIS fighters who had been held in the area did not “break out.”

Graham, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said he believed the United States and Kurdish forces could establish a venture to modernize Syrian oil fields, with the revenue flowing to the Kurds.

Soon after Trump had announced the troops withdrawal, Graham had expressed opposition, warning such a move would be a “nightmare for Israel.”

Related: Fight over Syria rages here and there: Pro-military analysts endorse withdrawal, October 15, 2019

After Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemned the Turkish invasion of the Kurdish areas in Syria, Graham stated, “Could not agree with Prime Minister Netanyahu more. Turkey’s invasion of northern Syria attacking one of America’s most reliable allies – the Kurds – is a nightmare for the U.S. and Israel.”

Meanwhile, Iran has rejected the establishment of Turkish military posts inside of Syria, saying borders between the two countries should be respected.

Speaking at a weekly news conference broadcast on state TV on Oct. 21, Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mosavi said issues between Syria and Turkey should be resolved “by diplomatic means.”

“We are against Ankara’s establishing of military posts in Syria … Syria’s integrity should be respected,” he said.

Last week Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan agreed to a temporary halt in fighting brokered by the United States to allow Kurdish forces time to pull back from regions under assault in Ankara’s military drive to clear a Kurdish-held swath of northeastern Syria, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Oct. 20 that Ankara does not want “a single Kurdish militant” left in its planned “safe zones” and that Turkey will discuss with Russia, whose forces are fighting in support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, the removal of Kurdish militia fighters from the Manbij and Kobani regions of Syria.

Erdogan is scheduled to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi on Oct. 22.

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