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WASHINGTON -- With Republican congressional leaders expressing alarm about Turkey's offensive against Kurdish forces in Syria, most members of the all-Republican Arkansas delegation are calling for sanctions against the regime of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

In a written statement Monday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said he would work with his colleagues and administration officials "to avoid a strategic calamity."

"For years, the United States and our Syrian Kurdish partners have fought heroically to corner ISIS and destroy its physical caliphate. Abandoning this fight now and withdrawing U.S. forces from Syria would re-create the very conditions that we have worked hard to destroy and invite the resurgence of ISIS. And such a withdrawal would also create a broader power vacuum in Syria that will be exploited by Iran and Russia, a catastrophic outcome for the United States' strategic interests," McConnell said.

On Monday evening, President Donald Trump announced that he was declaring a "national emergency" because of Turkey's military offensive.

Among other things, he announced a hike in Turkey's steel tariffs and empowered the U.S. secretary of state to impose sanctions on "persons determined to be responsible for or complicit in" the attacks.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., later said that she and U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., favor bipartisan legislation to "overturn" Trump's withdrawal of U.S. forces from the area, The Associated Press reported.

Lawmakers, who have been on recess for the past two weeks, return to Capitol Hill this week.

In both chambers, legislation has been drafted that would punish Turkey.

Three of Arkansas' four U.S. House members are already sponsoring legislation that would impose sanctions on Turkey: Reps. French Hill of Little Rock, Steve Womack of Rogers and Rick Crawford of Jonesboro added their names last week.

The fourth, U.S. Rep. Bruce Westerman of Hot Springs, said he also supports sanctions.

In a written statement Sunday, Hill said: "President Trump's misguided decision to pull these troops is unraveling regional stability that we fought hard to secure with our Kurdish allies. Turkey must stop this advance now before any Americans are killed, and if it doesn't, Congress must enact sanctions as soon as possible to hold Turkey accountable."

In a text message, Crawford said Trump has long sought to reduce U.S. involvement "in foreign conflicts that don't directly address American interests. In a way, this move should come as no surprise."

"However, the paradox in this situation is that our limited tactical presence in the region actually served the strategic purpose of helping contain the persistent threat of radical islamism and elements like ISIS, which is in our national interests."

"While the wisdom of this decision remains to be seen, Congress should provide whatever legislative action is necessary to assist the President in addressing Turkey's belligerent behavior, including aggressive sanctions," Crawford said.

On Twitter, U.S. Sen. John Boozman of Rogers has also expressed a willingness to support "severe economic sanctions" if necessary "to alter Turkey's behavior."

In tweets Wednesday, Boozman said the Kurds have been "reliable and highly effective partners in the War on Terror. In fact, ISIS would still be carrying out large-scale carnage in the region without the contributions and sacrifice of the Kurdish people."

On Monday, a Boozman spokesman said the senator and his colleagues "understand the urgency and are developing a path forward that includes sanctions."

A spokesman for U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton couldn't address whether the lawmaker supports sanctions, saying he'd been unable to reach him.

In an interview with the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette on Oct. 8, Cotton said Turkey's military operation "has been long anticipated."

Rather than endorsing Turkey's offensive, Trump had warned Erdogan against committing "widescale violence," noting "severe consequences for Turkey" if it acted improperly, the lawmaker from Dardanelle added.

"I hope that President Erdogan got that message from the president clearly and that there's not going to be violence against the Syrian Kurds because, whatever their relationship to Turkey, they've obviously been good partners of ours and we want to ensure that we are not taking steps that's going to lead to violence against them or going to undermine their legitimate interests and their safety and security in what is their homeland," Cotton said.

A Section on 10/15/2019

Print Headline: U.S. lawmakers seek sanctions against Turkey

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