Romney: Syrian Ceasefire Agreement ‘Far From a Victory’

Melanie Arter | October 18, 2019 | 4:13pm EDT
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(Photo by BRYAN R. SMITH/AFP/Getty Images)

( - Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) called the Trump administration’s deal with Turkey to pause its military offensive in northern Syria “far from a victory,” adding that “serious questions remain” about how and why the decision was reached.

Romney also wondered why the terms of the agreement weren’t negotiated before President Donald Trump decided to withdraw U.S. forces.


Speaking on the Senate floor on Thursday, Romney said, “I rise today to address the current situation in Syria. First, I welcome the vice president’s announcement of a ceasefire which will prevent further loss of life. I hope the agreement is honored, but at the heart of this matter is a central question of why these terms and assurances were not negotiated before the president consented to withdraw our troops.



Since Trump announced the withdrawal, the Kurds suffering loss of life and property have allied with Syrian President Bashar al Assad, Russia has taken control of the United States’ previous military positions, and “the U.S. has been forced in many cases to bomb one of our own facilities,” Romney said.

“The announcement today is being portrayed as a victory. It is far from a victory. Serious questions remain about how the decision was reached precipitously to withdraw from Syria and why that decision was reached,” Romney said.

 He said the administration must explain what the United States’ role will be in the region, what happens to the Kurds, and why Turkey won’t face “apparent consequences.”

“Further, the ceasefire does not change the fact that America has abandoned an ally. Adding insult to dishonor, the administration speaks cavalierly, even flippantly, even as our ally has suffered death and casualty. Their homes have been burned, and their families have been torn apart,” Romney said.

He said our Kurdish allies “lost 11,000 combatants in the joint effort to defeat ISIS.”

“We dropped bombs from the air and provided intelligence and logistics behind the lines. The Kurds lost thousands of lives,” along with “86 brave Americans,” Romney said.

“It’s argued that the Kurds were fighting for themselves. Of course they were. That’s the nature of an alliance,” he said. “We fight together, each pursuing our own vital interests.”

The decision to abandon U.S. allies “violates one of our most sacred duties,” Romney said.

“What we have done to the Kurds will stand as a blood stain in the annals of American history,” he said. “There are broad strategic issue as well. Iranian and Russian interests in the Middle East have been advanced by our decision at a time when we’re applying maximum pressure on Iran by giving them a stronger hand in Syria.”

Romney argued that the U.S. has actually weakened that pressure and that “Russia’s objective to play a greater role in the Middle East has also been greatly enhanced.”

“The Kurds out of desperation have now aligned with Assad, so America is diminished. Russia, Iran, and Assad are strengthened,” he said.

Romney, who serves on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, wondered why the committee even exists, because the decision to leave Syria was made without consulting the committee, the committee chairman or the ranking member.

He acknowledged that some argue that the U.S. should not have been in Syria in the first place, because there was no vote taken by the Senate to engage in war there, but Romney disagreed. He said having no authorization is “irrelevant to the decision as to the withdrawal,” because we committed to defending the Kurds.

“Once you jump in the ocean to save a drowning soul, you don’t turn around with the excuse that you didn’t have to jump in in the first place. It is as a matter of fact a commitment. Others argue that we should just get out of a messy situation like this. The Middle East they say has had wars going on forever. Just let them have at it,” Romney said.

“There is a certain logic to that position as well, but again it applies only to the original decision as to whether or not we should have gone into Syria. Once we have engaged and made the commitments we’ve made, honor as well as self-interests demand that we not abandon our allies,” he said.

“The president has said that we left to fulfill a commitment to stop endless wars, to bring troops home, to get them out of harm’s way, perhaps to save money. I find these reasons hard to square. Why? Well, we withdrew 1,500 troops in Syria, but we’re adding 2,000 troops in Saudi Arabia,” Romney said. That means 60,000 U.S. troops will be in the Middle East.

“Assuming for the sake of understanding that getting out of endless wars was the logic for the decision, why would we take action so precipitously? Why would we not warn our ally the Kurds of what we’re about to do? Why would we not give them time to also withdraw or perhaps to dif in to defend themselves?” he asked.

“Clearly, the Turks had a heads up, because they were able to start bombing within mere hours. I simply don’t understand why the administration did not explain in advance to Erdogan that it’s unacceptable for Turkey to attack an American ally. Could we not insist that together we develop a transition plan that protects the Kurds, secures the ISIS prisoners, and meets the legitimate concerns of Turkey as well?” Romney wondered.

“Was there no chance for diplomacy? Are we so weak and so inept diplomatically that Turkey forced the hand of the United States of America, Turkey?” he asked.

Romney called for public hearings to be held next week to answer those questions.

“I note in closing that I also hope the cease-fire agreement is honored and that Turkey ends its brutal killing, but I note that lives are already lost and American honor has already been tarnished. We once abandoned a red line. Now we abandoned an ally. Mr. President, we need answers. What has happened in Syria should not happen again, and we, the Senate, must take action to make sure that it does not,” he concluded.



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