Syrians flee shelling by Turkish forces in Ras al Ayn, northeast Syria, Wednesday, Oct. 9, 2019. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced Wednesday the start of a Turkish military operation against Kurdish fighters in northeastern Syria. (AP Photo/Baderkhan Ahmad)

Bipartisan Senate bill could block military sales to Turkey

October 09, 2019 - 4:54 pm

WASHINGTON (AP) — A sponsor of an emerging bipartisan Senate bill that would punish Turkey for its invasion of northern Syria said Wednesday the measure could immediately block U.S. arms sales to Turkey, effectively rebuking President Donald Trump's abrupt decision to pull U.S. troops from the region.

Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., told The Associated Press that he and Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., are also discussing penalizing other countries that sell weapons to Turkey.

Van Hollen said the measure could also import sanctions on senior Turkish officials and that the penalties would be lifted when Turkey withdrew its forces.

Both lawmakers said they expect wide support from both parties. That underscores the broad bipartisan opposition in Congress to Trump's sudden move.

Graham, a former longtime member of the Senate Armed Services and a leading congressional voice on military matters, said he had reached agreement with Van Hollen.

"While the administration refuses to act against Turkey, I expect strong bipartisan support," Graham said in a written statement. "Most members of Congress believe it would be wrong to abandon the Kurds who have been strong allies" in fighting the Islamic State group.

Graham, normally a staunch Trump ally, has been a leading critic of the president's decision to pull back U.S. forces back.

Turkey launched air and ground assaults into northern Syria against the Kurds on Wednesday after the U.S. move. Syrian Kurdish fighters have been America's only allies in Syria fighting IS, and hundreds of American troops have been stationed there.

Turkey considers the Kurdish fighters to be terrorists allied with a Kurdish insurgency in Turkey.

Trump's removal of American forces increased the chances that Turkey would invade Syria, even though he has threatened to "totally destroy and obliterate" Turkey's economy if the Turkish push went too far.


This story has been corrected to reflect that Sen. Graham is a former longtime member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, not the current chairman.

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