WASHINGTON, DC – In a contentious Oval Office meeting, a band of GOP senators rebuffed the effort by Turkey’s president to depict anti-Islamic State Kurd forces as terrorists, with White House allies taking a harder line against Recep Tayyip Erdogan than did President Donald Trump.
Participants said Erdogan played a propaganda video for Republican senators attending Wednesday’s meeting, drawing a rebuke from Sen. Lindsey Graham and others, as first reported by Axios.
Graham, R-S.C., said Thursday that he asked Erdogan, “Do you want me to get the Kurds to play a video about what your forces have done?”
Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., said the three-minute video didn’t change any of the GOP senators’ minds.
The lawmakers also told Erdogan that he risked economic sanctions by going ahead with a new Russian anti-aircraft missile system.
“If we can’t unwind this deal with the S-400 (missiles) and if we can't find a safe zone more acceptable to the region and the United States, we will take up some version of the House sanctions that will get 95 votes,” Graham said.
Last month, the Democratic-controlled House overwhelmingly approved tough sanctions against Turkey for its attack on the Kurds in northern Syria. Turkey’s invasion came after Trump pulled back American forces in what even close GOP allies said was a huge miscalculation.
Wednesday’s exchange behind the scenes was far more confrontational than the reception Trump gave Erdogan in public.
“It’s a pretty difficult relationship right now,” said Scott, adding that Erdogan didn’t persuade anyone with his video.