President Trump angered critics including fellow Republicans with bizarre remarks Wednesday downplaying the importance of the alliance between US and Kurdish forces against ISIS, and of alliances in general. The president defended his decision to allow a Turkish offensive in northern Syria by pointing out that Kurdish fighters did not assist the US in military operations like the D-Day landings. "They didn't help us in the Second World War, they didn't help us with Normandy for example," Trump said. "They're there to help us with their land, and that's a different thing." Business Insider notes that Normandy is around 2,500 miles from the Kurdistan region, and isn't part of the US. "With all of that being said, we like the Kurds," Trump added. More:
- Asked whether he felt abandoning the Kurds sent a worrying message to other US allies, Trump replied: "Alliances are easy," adding that it will be easy for the US to form new ones. He also said America's "alliances" have "taken tremendous advantages of us."
- The BBC reports that Turkey has stepped up airstrikes and ground attacks on the second day of the offensive, which is believed to have killed at least seven civilians. Tens of thousands of people have fled the area.
- Trump's own alliances with some Republican lawmakers appear to be weakening. "At request of this administration the Kurds served as the primary ground fighters against ISIS in Syria so US troops wouldn’t have to," but Trump then "cut deal with Erdogan allowing him to wipe them out," tweeted Sen. Marco Rubio. He predicted that the policy would do severe and long-lasting damage both to America's reputation and its interests.
- Rep. Liz Cheney said she couldn't understand why Trump "is leaving America's allies to be slaughtered and enabling the return of ISIS." "President Trump’s decision to withdraw US forces from northern Syria is having sickening and predictable consequences," she said.
- Sen. Lindsey Graham, normally one of Trump's staunchest allies, tweeted Wednesday that he had reached a bipartisan agreement with Democratic Sen. Chris Van Hollen "on severe sanctions against Turkey for their invasion of Syria," the Hill reports. "While the Administration refuses to act against Turkey, I expect strong bipartisan support," Graham said.
- Trump confirmed in a tweet late Wednesday that two British ISIS militants known as the Beatles are now in US custody. "In case the Kurds or Turkey lose control, the United States has already taken the 2 ISIS militants tied to beheadings in Syria, known as the Beetles (sic) out of that country and into a secure location controlled by the US," he said. "They are the worst of the worst!"
- The Washington Post notes that the dissent from Republican lawmakers and Christian evangelicals comes as Trump is also fighting the impeachment inquiry. Former North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory says Trump seems to tolerate more dissent on foreign policy than on other issues. Syria, he says, is "not personal for most Trump supporters. It’s a foreign policy disagreement."
- European nations and Australia called for restraint as the Turkish offensive entered its second day, the AP reports. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whose government calls the US-allied Kurdish fighters "terrorists," claimed more than 100 of them had been killed. A spokesman for the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces said their fighters had repelled Turkish attacks.
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