- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 10, 2019

A retiring House Republican said Thursday he can no longer support President Trump as Turkey bombards American-allied Kurds, underscoring the friendly fire Mr. Trump is facing as he tries to justify his moves in northeast Syria.

Rep. John Shimkus of Illinois said he’s “heartbroken” over Mr. Trump’s decision to cede way to advancing Turkish troops and told his chief of staff pull his name “off the ‘I support Donald Trump’ list.”

“We have just stabbed our allies in the back,” Mr. Shimkus, who is not seeking reelection, told KMOX NewsRadio in St. Louis.

Mr. Shimkus said he is “saddened for the Kurdish people” and highlighted their decades-long partnership with American soldiers.

Mr. Trump said Thursday he is watching the unfolding scene in Syria closely and will punish Turkey if they “don’t play by the rules,” yet opposition to his strategy continued to pile up.

Sen. Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, one of the few Democrats to play ball with Mr. Trump when most others won’t, said Thursday the president is making a “terrible miscalculation” in the region.

“We are abandoning our allies who have worked together with U.S. forces to establish stability in the region and wipe out ISIS,” Mr. Manchin said. “The invasion of Northern Syria by Turkey, an area controlled by our Kurdish allies, is what happens when the United States shrinks from its responsibility as a world leader.”

Mr. Trump says he is trying to unwind endless wars in the Middle East, while getting countries in the region to police the “neighborhood.” He says European nations, meanwhile, should take back fighters who left to join the routed Islamic State.

“We won, we left the area, I don’t think we want to go back in,” Mr. Trump said.

He said the U.S. has three options — it could dedicate thousands of troops to the region, sanction Turkey over its actions, or find a way to mediate between Turkey and the Kurds.

“I hope we can mediate,” Mr. Trump said.

Mr. Trump enjoys support from lawmakers such as Sen. Rand Paul, the Kentucky Republican who has long been wary of American entanglements overseas.

Yet he’s weathering criticism from many others.

Televangelist Pat Robertson said Mr. Trump risks losing the “mandate of heaven” with his Syria moves. Christian groups are worried the U.S. withdrawal will imperil religious minorities in the region.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in a tweet, condemned the Turkish “invasion” and warned against “the ethnic cleansing of the Kurds by Turkey and its proxies,” though he did not call out Mr. Trump — a friend and close ally.

Republican allies who have tracked the situation say Mr. Trump should not have deferred to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan during a phone call last weekend.

Mr. Shimkus said Turkey may be a NATO ally, but it has morphed into a more “totalitarian, Islamic-type” state and has cozied to Moscow.

“They’re still in the tent, but this was embarrassing,” Mr. Shimkus said.

Rep. Tim Ryan, Ohio Democrat, said he wants to see the transcript of the Erdogan call, citing Mr. Trump’s property holdings.

The congressman cited a 2015 interview in which Mr. Trump told the Breitbart news outlet that he has “a little conflict of interest” on issues involving Turkey “because I have a major, major building in Istanbul.”

“What did President Erdogan say to President Trump that spurred this sudden change? Our foreign policy should not be conducted on a whim by an unstable and reckless commander in chief who is putting his business interests and the desires of authoritarian foreign leaders above U.S. national security,” Mr. Ryan said in a letter to House Democratic committee chairmen investigating Mr. Trump.

Mr. Trump’s main 2020 Democratic rival — former Vice President Joseph R. Biden — piled on Thursday.

He said Mr. Trump betrayed Kurdish fighters and America’s good name on a whim after talking to Mr. Erdogan, a “fellow strongman.”

“Donald Trump sold out the Syrian Democratic Forces — the courageous Kurds and Arabs who fought with us to smash ISIS’s caliphate — and he betrayed a key local ally in the fight against terrorism,” Mr. Biden, a frontrunner for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, said in a four-paragraph statement.

“But that’s not all — he betrayed our brave troops, who sacrificed alongside them,” Mr. Biden said. “He betrayed our word as a nation — raising doubts among our allies around the world about America’s security commitments.”

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