'I expect that our Turkish allies will listen carefully to the anger from Washington, welcome our Vice President, and take steps to repair our important relationship. It would be a tragedy for both of our nations if Turkey's escalation in Syria imperils our common fight against ISIS and embolden traditional adversaries like Iran and Russia. This would be bad for U.S. interests, but it would be terrible for Turkey.'
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell
WASHINGTON, DC -- U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) delivered the following remarks today on the Senate floor regarding the situation in Syria:
"I know I speak for many of our colleagues on both sides of the aisle in expressing my grave concern at the events that have unfolded in Syria in recent days.
"Turkey is our NATO ally. Yes, it hosts millions of Syrian refugees and has legitimate security concerns about the situation in Syria. But Turkey's escalation of hostilities with the Syrian Kurdish partners who have helped the United States fight terrorism is completely unacceptable. This violence needs to end.
"Syrian Kurdish forces have stood proudly alongside U.S. forces in the fight against ISIS. Over years of joint effort, their shared sacrifices have put ISIS on its heels and rendered its physical caliphate essentially nonexistent. But leaving the field now would mean leaving the door wide open for a resurgence of this dangerous force and a new iteration of the Islamic State, creating a power vacuum begging for the meddling influence of Russia, leaving northeastern Syria wide open for Iran to extend its reach, unimpeded, all the way from Tehran to the doorstep of our friends in Israel, and destroying the leverage we currently have to compel Bashar Assad to stop his slaughter of the Syrian people and negotiate an end to this terrible conflict and humanitarian catastrophe.
"I want to make something clear: The United States has taken the fight to Syria and Afghanistan because that is where our enemies are. Fighting terrorists, exercising leadership in troubled regions, and advancing U.S. interests around the world does not make us an evil empire or the world's policeman. It makes us a prudent and responsible world power that stands up for our own security and the freedom of others.
"Alongside the 80 coalition partners that U.S. forces have lead in the counter-ISIS coalition, that is what we must continue to do so. We must continue to provide support to the local forces that carry the lion's share of the responsibility to defend their homelands. And this effort must continue to include our allies and partners, even the imperfect ones who sometimes behave rashly and dangerously, as both Saudi Arabia and Turkey have recently.
"When it looked like President Trump would withdraw from Syria at the beginning of the year, 70 Senators joined in warning of the risks of precipitously withdrawing from Syria or Afghanistan. The veto-proof majority vote for my amendment to S.1, the Strengthening America's Security in the Middle East Act, demonstrated strong and bipartisan appreciation of our enduring security interests in the region.
"The Senate spoke clearly and said that we must ensure we have set the conditions for an enduring defeat of the terrorists before any withdrawal. Regrettably, many of the Democratic senators running for president, along with my friend the Democratic Leader, parted with this bipartisan consensus and voted against this amendment.
"So I hope these aspiring commanders-in-chief are asked to explain how they reconcile their criticisms of the administration today with their votes just a few months ago. Maybe they'll even be asked on the debate stage this evening.
"I am heartened to hear that Vice President Pence will soon lead a delegation to begin immediate talks with Turkey to end this violence.
"I expect that our Turkish allies will listen carefully to the anger from Washington, welcome our Vice President, and take steps to repair our important relationship. It would be a tragedy for both of our nations if Turkey's escalation in Syria imperils our common fight against ISIS and embolden traditional adversaries like Iran and Russia. This would be bad for U.S. interests, but it would be terrible for Turkey. And I look forward to discussing, with members on both sides and with the administration, how the United States of America can stand with our partners and provide strong, principled, and consistent global leadership."