Lindsey Graham Talks Turkey (Interview With Kilmeade)

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., pauses while speaking to members of the media outside the West Wing of the White House in Washington, after his meeting with President Donald Trump, Sunday, Dec. 30, 2018. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

Lindsey Graham by Gage Skidmore, licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0/Original

This morning, Brian Kilmeade aired an interview he did with Lindsey Graham while he was in South Carolina yesterday. They covered both the recent developments regarding Syria and Turkey and the ongoing impeachment imbroglio.


Graham reiterated points he made earlier in the week, as covered by my colleague, Brandon Morse, including his threat/promise to sanction Turkey heavily if it continues to invade Syria:

GRAHAM: I’m more concerned than ever. The Kurds were talking to Assad because they’ve got no other place to go. Turkey said today, we’re not going to take over the ISIS prisoner camps except in the areas that we occupy. Our Kurdish allies are being killed by Turkey as I speak.


What we’re doing to the Kurds is dishonorable and it’s dangerous for us because if Turkey keeps coming into Syria and going after the Kurdish fighters who fought with us to defeat ISIS, then ISIS will break out in Iran and Assad will be the biggest winner.

I talked with the president. I hope he’ll change course. I’ve got sanctions against Turkey that I will introduce next Tuesday. These are sanctions from hell. I’m going to break Erdogan’s economy and cut off all aid to the military. And it really pisses me off, Brian, that F-16s designed in — by the Americans are being used to bomb the Kurds by Turkey. (emphasis added)

These comments are more in line with the comments he’s been making publicly since the President announced Sunday his intention to pull out troops. As noted by fellow RedStater Bonchie last evening, Graham’s comments to Russian pranksters posing as the Turkish Defense Minister held a slightly different tone. Still, they’re not wholly inconsistent. I’d characterize them as…carefully nuanced. In fact, in the interview with Kilmeade, Graham acknowledged the thorny situation involving the YPG Kurds and Turkey:


GRAHAM: OK, so what I said three years ago, the YPG Kurds are the cousins of the PKK. They’re a terrorist group inside of Turkey. The PKK is seen as a terrorist group by the United States. The YPG is a Syrian offshoot of that group. They were the only ones that would fight with us — a few Arabs — to destroy ISIS, so we had to make an alliance with the Kurds because nobody else would help us.

We owe it to them to not abandon them, but we owe to them to not abandon them, but we owe it to Turkey to keep this group they consider to be terrorists away from the Turkish border. That’s what the safe zone was about. It was working until President Trump gave in to a threat by Erdogan.

Graham elaborated on the “fix” he would recommend:

KILMEADE: — is there a fix?

GRAHAM: Yes, yes. Here’s the fix. Join my effort to sanction Turkey for their incursion into Syria. We’re hitting their energy sector. We’re going to cut off all military aid. We’re going to hit their economy and really cripple Erdogan. If you join in with the congressional effort to sanction Turkey, he will get out because we’ll break his economy. And the sanctions stay in place as long as Turkey is in Syria.

Number two, you should send some soldiers in to make sure that these ISIS prison camps, that they don’t break out.

KILMEADE: Right now. Right now.

GRAHAM: Right now. Mr. President, while you have a chance, there are about 12,000 ISIS fighters who are going to break out if you don’t do something. So what I would do is tell Erdogan we’re going to send in, you know, whatever number you need — talk to General Keane — to secure these prison camps. And if you come anywhere near us, we will blow you out of the sky and blow you up.

Now, if he did that, we could reset. And how does this end? Have a safe zone between Turkey, because they feel threatened by the Kurds. We can tell Turkey we’ll keep the YPG Kurds away from the Turkish border, we’ll have American, Turkish, and international forces patrolling this safe zone, we can watch ISIS together, and we can put Syria back together again, get a peace deal in Geneva.


Graham notes that he’s spoken to President Trump directly on the issue. Clearly, he’s hoping to nudge the President via his public comments, as well. Will it work?

I’ve seen sound arguments on both sides of the issue. Mike Ford, for instance, has written a compelling series of articles on the topic right here this week. I know that Graham generally is considered a hawk (and rightly so) and has interventionist instincts that diverge from Trump’s. His proposed “fix” makes a lot of sense to me, however. What do you think?

Watch the video of the full interview here:

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