Graham: I blame Erdoğan for 'catastrophe' but want Trump 'to fix it'

Graham: I blame Erdoğan for 'catastrophe' but want Trump 'to fix it'
© Aaron Schwartz

Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamSunday shows preview: Lawmakers prepare for week two of impeachment trial Trump defense team signals focus on Schiff Trump legal team offers brisk opening defense of president MORE (R-S.C.) said Wednesday morning that while he holds Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan responsible for the "catastrophe" in Syria, he wants President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump denies telling Bolton Ukraine aid was tied to investigations Former senior Senate GOP aide says Republicans should call witnesses Title, release date revealed for Bolton memoir MORE to rectify the situation.

Graham told reporters that Trump sought to prevent Erdoğan from invading northeastern Syria after the two spoke by phone last week, and that Trump sent a letter urging Erdoğan to hold off on the offensive.

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“President Trump wrote a letter that I thought was a good letter to Erdoğan — I hope he’ll release it — advising him not to do it,” Graham said.

“So I blame Erdoğan for this catastrophe but I am holding President Trump accountable to fix it,” Graham added.

Trump later fired back at Graham's criticism over the withdrawal of U.S. troops from northern Syria, arguing the South Carolina Republican should focus on investigating the 2016 election instead of the Middle East.

"Lindsey Graham would like to stay in the Middle East for the next thousand years with thousands of soldiers and fighting other people's wars. I want to get out of the Middle East," Trump said at a joint press conference with the Italian president.

Trump announced last week his intention to remove U.S. troops from northeastern Syria, immediately throwing into chaos the U.S. relationship with the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), the main U.S. ally in the fight against ISIS.

Turkey has said the SDF, which is made up of Syrian Kurdish and Arab soldiers, is aligned with the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), an international designated terrorist organization, and argues their presence on the border threatens Turkey’s security.

Turkey launched its invasion just days after Trump announced his intention to leave the region. The United Nations and aid groups have criticized the offensive and called for a deescalation to avoid a humanitarian disaster.

Graham also said partnering with the Kurds was the only way to ensure the lasting defeat of ISIS, and that the U.S. will impose harsh sanctions on Turkey’s economy if the offensive continues.

“When it comes to Syria, the only way that ISIS will continue to be defeated is to partner with the Kurds. If we abandon that partnership they will come back," he said. "To allow Russia and Iran to protect us against the rise of ISIS is, quite frankly, insane. It will not work."