Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) had been a vocal critic recently of President Donald Trump for his decision to take a small number of American troops out of northern Syria.
And the president called him out publicly for his stance on that.
But on Sunday morning, the Republican senator said he’s “increasingly optimistic that we can have some historic solutions in Syria that have eluded us for years if we play our cards right.”
The GOP lawmaker made his remarks on the Fox News program “Sunday Morning Futures with Maria Bartiromo.”
Graham, chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, had spent the past week or so critical of Trump’s decision to move troops out, feeling it would leave the area incredibly vulnerable.
But he said he talked with Trump on Saturday night about the objectives in Syria — and felt encouraged by their discussion over the fight against ISIS terrorists in that region.
“This is completely different than what you have been saying all week,” Bartiromo said to him after he made his “increasingly optimistic” remarks.
“You have been a staunch criticizer of the president’s move to pull all the troops out of Syria,” she added.
“Yes,” replied Graham.
“You said, in fact, on this program just two weeks ago,” Bartiromo continued, that “if we abandon the Kurds, ISIS is going to come back and that there’s an attack on our allies. So, you have changed your mind based on what you have heard from the president last night?” she asked.
“Yes. I still believe that, if we abandon the Kurds, nobody helps you in the future,” he replied. “They have lost 10,000 fighters to destroy the caliphate. But there are 15,000 or 20,000 ISIS fighters running around in Syria and Iraq. A small contingent of Americans providing airpower and capability will keep ISIS at bay and keep the jails locked up and the Kurds. I mean, the ISIS fighters won’t break out. What I heard from the president was a very — play the ball as you lie is a concept in golf. Well, after Erdogan’s invasion, things have gotten scrambled in Syria.”
“But I see a way forward now that really, quite frankly, is historic — historic security for Turkey, historic security for the Kurds,” Graham continued. “A plan to keep ISIS down and out forever, and a chance to keep the oil fields in the hands of our allies, not our enemies, would be a hell of an outcome, and I think that’s now possible.”
“The president says that he wants the troops home. He doesn’t want wars,” Bartiromo noted. “And the American people, much of them, agree with him … Why are we sending troops to Saudi Arabia, then?”
“Because Saudi Arabia is an ally and Iran is an enemy,” said Graham. “And Iran is the biggest state sponsor of terrorism on the planet. They’re trying to build a nuclear weapon. They are liars. They murdered their own people. They dismembered Lebanon and Yemen — and on and on and on. They have got American blood on their hands. They attacked the largest oil field in the world in Saudi Arabia.”
“And it’s in our interests,” he added, “to make sure that oil field is protected and the world’s economy doesn’t plunge because of misadventures of Iran. That’s why what President Trump is proposing in Syria, a joint venture dealing with the southern oil fields in Syria, between our allies, the Kurds and the Arabs who helped us destroy ISIS … [It’s] a historic change that could pay dividends for the region. And, quite frankly, we could generate revenue to pay for our commitment in Syria, something we haven’t been able to do.”
“So, the bottom line here is, you have got to play the ball where it lies,” added the Republican senator. “And if President Trump fulfills the objectives he laid out to me, then I think we can end Syria successfully. And God bless all those who have fought to destroy ISIS.”
To recount, Graham earlier had blasted Trump for saying countries like Russia, Iran, and Turkey should be responsible for stabilizing Syria and helping to protect the Kurds. “I firmly believe that if President Trump continues to make such statements, this will be a disaster worse than President Obama’s decision to leave Iraq,” Graham said this past Wednesday.
Trump, at that time, said Graham was overreacting — and should redirect his efforts elsewhere.
Bartiromo, on Sunday morning, thanked the senator for sharing his latest insights.
Further on Sunday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is now leading a surprise congressional delegation to Jordan — to discuss security issues in northern Syria.
Trump tweeted the following about the trip:
Pelosi is now leading a delegation of 9, including Corrupt Adam Schiff, to Jordan to check out Syria. She should find out why Obama drew The Red Line In the Sand, & then did NOTHING, losing Syria & all respect. I did something, 58 missiles. One million died under Obama’s mistake!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 20, 2019
See the video within this tweet — and share your thoughts on this story.
— Maria Bartiromo (@MariaBartiromo) October 20, 2019
This article has been updated with the latest information.