GOP Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina appears to have made a 180-degree turn and now supports President Donald Trump’s handling of the invasion of Syria by Turkey.
“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 told Fox News host Maria Bartiromo on Sunday.
“I blame [Turkish President Recep] Erdogan for the invasion, not Trump,” the Foreign Relations Committee member added.
Graham had been very critical of Trump’s decision to pull a small contingent of U.S. forces from Syria’s northeast border in advance of an incursion into the country by Turkish forces.
The senator had accused the president of abandoning the United States’ Kurdish allies, who contributed greatly to the defeat of the Islamic State’s group.
Graham said Trump addressed his concerns during a conversation on Saturday.
“The president appreciates what the Kurds have done,” Graham told Bartiromo. “He wants to make sure ISIS doesn’t come back. I expect we will continue to partner with the Kurds into eastern Syria to make sure ISIS doesn’t re-emerge. That is in our national security interests, and we owe it to the Kurds.”
The lawmaker praised Trump’s strategic thinking regarding oil fields in eastern Syria.
“The big thing for me is the oil fields,” Graham said. “President Trump is thinking outside the box. I was so impressed with his thinking about the oil.
“Not only are we going to deny the oil fields falling into Iranian hands, I believe we’re on the verge of a joint venture between us and the Syrian Democratic Forces, who helped destroy ISIS and keep them destroyed, to modernize the oil fields and make sure they get the revenue, not the Iranians, not Assad. It can help pay for our small commitment in the future.”
The South Carolinian emphasized, “I’m increasingly optimistic this could turn out very well.”
Bartiromo could not help noting that everything Graham was saying to her was completely different from the sentiments he was expressing in recent weeks.
He conceded he did have a change of heart after learning Trump did not intend to abandon the Kurds and that captured Islamic State group fighters would remain in captivity.
— Maria Bartiromo (@MariaBartiromo) October 20, 2019
Graham’s rhetoric regarding the matter began to change after Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced on Thursday that Turkey had agreed to a ceasefire.
The senator tweeted later that day, “Sounds like we may have made real progress regarding a cease-fire and hopefully a sustainable solution that will prevent the reemergence of ISIS and the abandonment of our ally, the Kurds.”
Graham joined with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in calling for harsh economic sanctions to be leveled against Turkey.
Trump also threatened sanctions and started with doubling the tariff on steel imported from Turkey.
Graham told Bartiromo that while Graham said he finds Trump to be a “handful,” overall he said he is more focused on results.
“I’ve gotten to know him, and I find him to be a handful. I find him to be an equal-opportunity-abuser of people,” Graham said. “But, at the end of the day, he can be very charming and be very gracious. And I am judging him by his conduct. If I spent all day analyzing every tweet he issued, I’d go nuts.”
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