Ankara (GPA) – Following a short trip to Turkey, US Senator Lindsey Graham has become a de facto spokesman for Turkish President Erdogan and the AKP.
US Senator from South Carolina, Lindsey Graham has been working harder than ever since President Donald Trump announced his decision to pull American troops out of Syria. This week he put in overtime on his mission to keep the war going in Syria by heading to Turkey, apparently to get his talking points directly from Erdogan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP).
Graham made several rather large proclamations on his trip to Turkey, including taking a harsh stance against the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, ISIS the Syrian Kurds, and Donald Trump’s foreign policy in the process. Not only did Graham break from his fellow Republican, Donald Trump but he also managed to go farther than most of his party and basically laid out the AKP’s foreign policy platform.
During his trip, Graham staked out harder positions on these issues than anyone else in Congress (now that John McCain is dead). Starting with the Syrian Kurds, not only is Graham not worried about protecting them from Turkey but rather the other way around.
According to Graham, not only should the Syrian Kurds not be seen as an ally in Syria but instead claimed Washington’s previous support has “created a nightmare for Turkey.” Graham, unlike most other US officials, also went on to say that there is no doubt that the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) are linked to the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK), a group deemed a terrorist organization by both Turkey and the US.
This runs counter to basically every version of the mainstream narrative in the United States (including that of Graham’s fellow neoconservative maniac, John Bolton). Even other members of the US government who want to stay in Syria claim their motivation is to protect the YPG. Even Trump himself, who does want to pull out, has promised that he would take measures to ensure the safety of the Syrian Kurds.
Graham, on the other hand, basically used his trip to endorse any future designs Turkey may have for northern Syria if the US pulls out. Graham seemed to almost be trying to blackmail the President by promising that something bad would happen to the Kurds if the US left and Turkey would be justified, warning that “President Trump should be very cautious in how he withdraws and not dump this problem on Turkey’s lap.”
The Senator also went on to basically repeat a common theme from Erdogan’s speeches, saying that “his war will be a necessity by Turkey, to go into Syria and clear out armed elements that Turkey believes poses a threat to its sovereignty.”
Senator Graham did voice another position more in line with most of his fellow hawkish Congressmen, however, on the question of whether or not the Islamic State (IS) has been “defeated.” Much like other lawmakers, the mainstream media, and various defense ‘experts’, Graham also agreed that the terror organization was still a threat due to their minuscule presence “in the Euphrates River valley” (see: desert) and the fact that the “US military had not yet eliminated all of their strongholds.”
Another major break from many voices inside of the US is the fact that Senator Graham, like Erdogan, has placed the blame for the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi directly on Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman. Graham warned that the new(ish) Prince would have to be “dealt with” because “what has transpired over the last couple of years has been unnerving, to say the least.”
Graham’s problems with MBS included the treatment of his political opponents, saying – in Turkey without a hint of irony while being in the nation with the most journalists in jail – that “Taking all of your critics and throwing them in prison, the brutal murder [of] Mr. Khashoggi in Turkey, violating every norm of international behavior” was unacceptable.
This all runs counter to Donald Trump’s approach to handling Saudi relations following the murder of Jamal Khashoggi. Unlike Graham, Donald Trump has fully accepted the findings of a Saudi investigation into Khashoggi’s death that – in a surprise to no one – claimed MBS has no connection to the murder despite it being carried out by high ranking Saudi officials. Graham, for his part, refused to accept any of this and essentially only stopped short of calling for the removal of MBS as Crown Prince in his remarks.
It is unclear what change Lindsey Graham, a single senator going against the wishes of the majority of his own party, is going to do about any of this. It is interesting, however, that Graham managed to spend such a short time in Turkey and managed to become a Turkish nationalist. Senator Graham’s views may not reflect that of the nation but they do reflect those of the military industrial complex which includes many of the donors to Graham’s own ‘Security is Strength’ PAC. These opinions may be unpopular among the general public but Graham is truly speaking for who runs this country – defense contractors.
James Carey is an organizer based in Detroit, Michigan, founder of Geopolitics Alert, and an experienced analyst on Middle Eastern affairs with a particular focus on Turkey. He also covers topics ranging from Latin America and Asia to Europe. You can also hear James in his weekly podcast; The Left is Dead which he co-hosts with investigative journalist Jake Anderson.