(October 16, 2019 / JNS) Unlike the previous debates so far this year, candidates in Tuesday night’s Democratic presidential primary debate focused heavily on foreign policy, slamming U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw U.S. forces from northern Syria.
Frontrunner and former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden called Trump’s move as the “most shameful thing any president has done in modern history,” and that “Turkey is the real problem here.”
Biden added that the Kurds “lost their lives” fighting ISIS.
Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii), a U.S. Army veteran, said, “The slaughter of the Kurds being done by Turkey is yet another negative consequence of the regime change war that we’ve been raging in Syria.”
She continued, “Donald Trump has the blood of the Kurds on his hands, but so do many of the politicians in our country from both parties who have supported this ongoing regime change war in Syria that started in 2011, along with many in the mainstream media.”
South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg, a U.S. Navy veteran, said Gabbard was “dead wrong.”
“The slaughter going in Syria is not a consequence of American presence; it’s a consequence of a withdrawal and a betrayal by this president of American allies and American values,” he said.
Gabbard also said, “As president, I will end these regime change wars by doing two things: ending the draconian sanctions that are really a modern-day siege the likes of which we are seeing Saudi Arabia wage against Yemen that have caused tens of thousands of Syrian civilian to die and to starve, and I would make sure that we stop supporting terrorists like Al-Qaeda in Syria.”
Buttigieg remarked that the small number of U.S. forces were “the only thing that stood between that part of Syria and what we’re seeing now, which the beginning of a genocide and the resurgence of ISIS.”
“Meanwhile, soldiers in the field are reporting that for the first time, they feel ashamed—ashamed of what their country has done,” he continued. “When I deployed, I knew one of the things that was keeping me safe was the fact that the flag on my shoulder represented a country known to keep its word, and our allies knew it, and our enemies knew it. You take that away, you are taking away what makes America America.”
In what was widely seen as a green light for the Turkish assault, Trump abruptly announced a redeployment of 50 American troops from the conflict zone. While the pullout drew praise from those who want to see an end to U.S. military involvement in regional Middle Eastern affairs, others criticized Trump for what they said was a betrayal of America’s Kurdish allies, which they argued could pave the way to an Islamic State resurgence.
“After defeating 100% of the ISIS Caliphate, I largely moved our troops out of Syria. Let Syria and Assad protect the Kurds and fight Turkey for their own land. I said to my Generals, why should we be fighting for Syria and Assad to protect the land of our enemy?” Trump tweeted on Oct. 14, referring to Syrian President Bashar Assad. “Anyone who wants to assist Syria in protecting the Kurds is good with me, whether it is Russia, China or Napoleon Bonaparte. I hope they all do great, we are 7,000 miles away!”
Since the Turkish assault began, Syrian Kurdish military personnel have been forced to reduce the number of guards at prisons in which thousands of ISIS fighters are incarcerated, and according to multiple reports, numerous ISIS fighters have been able to escape as a result.
In addition, Kurdish border cities have begun inviting troops loyal to Assad to enter under an agreement brokered by Russia, leading to fears that the war could come to involve Russia and Iran, another of Assad’s primary backers.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), despite opposing U.S. intervention in the conflict, criticized Trump’s withdrawal decision. The former blamed the president for a “humanitarian disaster” in northern Syria.
“I don’t think we should have troops in the Middle East, but we should do it in the right way,” she said.
Sanders said Trump has “wrecked America’s ability to do foreign policy” by suddenly backing away from protecting the Kurds.
New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker condemned what he called a “retreat” of U.S. forces.
“We cannot allow the Russians to continue to grow in influence by growing on the world stage,” adding that “this president, time and time again, is showing moral weakness.”
Former U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro accused Trump of hypocrisy of enabling ISIS prisoners to flee while detaining illegal immigrants on the U.S.-Mexico border.
“Think about how absurd it is that this president is caging kids on the border and effectively letting ISIS prisoners run free,” he said. “He has made a tremendous mistake, a total disaster there in Syria. He’s abandoned the very people that we gave our word to.”
JNS works around the clock to provide high-quality, pro-Israel content. We’ve taken numerous steps to improve the quality, quantity, and distribution of our content for even greater impact. We intend to keep on growing, and to do that we need your help.
Please help us take pro-Israel journalism to the next level with a tax-deductible sponsorship, either on a one-time or recurring monthly basis. Jewish News Syndicate is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization.