Washington—Representative Eliot L. Engel, Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, today delivered the following remarks on the House floor in support of his bill, H.R. 4695 the Protect Against Conflict by Turkey Act, which imposes sanctions on Turkey for its military invasion of northern Syria. The legislation passed the House with overwhelming bipartisan support.
"I’ve described the Administration’s approach to international affairs as “fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants” foreign policy. But over a time, we have seen a pattern emerge. The President of the United States stokes a crisis and then steps in with some sort of half measure in a failed attempt to look like a great deal is happening. You can’t be an arsonist and a fireman at the same time.
"The situation in Syria right now may be the clearest example of this. And the most disastrous.
"Around two weeks ago, President Trump gave Turkey’s president Erdogan the green light to launch a military invasion of northern Syria.
"And that’s precisely what Turkey did. What followed was a gruesome campaign, slaughtering our Syrian Kurdish partners who fought alongside the United States against ISIS. Already, nearly 200,000 people—including women, children, and families—have been displaced, driven from their ancestral homes, ethnic cleansing at its worse. So, the deal we signed with Erdogan has led directly to ethnic cleansing in northern Syria’s indigenous Kurdish region.
"It’s really a disgrace. These people fought with us, these people took bullets for us, these people were our loyal and faithful allies, and for the United States to turn our backs on them, to start a series of events, a chain of events, which would hurt them really is a very dark day in our country’s history.
"And as the Kurds to survive this onslaught, they have been forced to abandon their watch over the prisons holding thousands of ISIS fighters. Over a hundred of these terrorists have reportedly escaped. And now, the situation in northeast Syria is a humanitarian and national security crisis. In a region already rife with conflict, Turkey’s military operation is wreaking even more havoc. And rather than hold Turkey accountable for how they’ve conducted this bloody campaign, President Trump has given them a free pass.
"When the head of ISIS was finally killed, President Trump unfortunately thanked the Turks, thanked the Turkish government. That just doesn’t sit right with me.
"First, the Administration arranged a sham “ceasefire” that gave Erdogan all he could have wanted. Then, Turkey entered into an agreement with Vladimir Putin that ceded America’s influence in the region to Russia, and then, President Trump lifted sanctions on Turkey once the Kurds fled.
"President Trump has let Erdogan off scot-free for a heinous assault that is destabilizing the region and threatening international security. President Trump and President Erdogan are responsible for the catastrophe in northeast Syria. They both must be held accountable.
"On October 16, the House passed a measure rebuking President Trump for this disastrous policy passed—I will note—with overwhelming bipartisan support.
"Now, the United States needs to make sure that Turkish President Erdogan faces consequences for his behavior. And because President Trump has failed to demonstrate American leadership in this regard, it’s now on Congress to step up and impose consequences on Turkey.
"The PACT Act, which is this act, underscores the devastating consequences of Turkey’s invasion and President Trump’s decision to step back and let it happen. It employs targeted, smart sanctions to incentivize Erdogan to stop his military offensive, cease violence against Syrian Kurdish communities, and withdraw from Syria.
"These sanctions are specifically designed to target the Turkish officials and institutions responsible for the bloodshed in Syria without senselessly hurting the Turkish people. After all, it is Erdogan—not the Turkish people—that is responsible for this horror.
"Erdogan is an authoritarian thug. His rule has left a glaring black mark on Turkey’s historic secular, democratic traditions. We need to pressure him while ramping up diplomacy in the hopes of getting Turkey back on the right track as a NATO ally. That’s one of the goals of this measure.
"This bipartisan legislation also requires the Trump Administration to develop concrete strategies for combatting ISIS, protecting Syrian Kurdish communities, and ensuring Syrians who partnered with American forces as well as NGOs and humanitarian organizations can be safely resettled in the United States.
"This is a smart response to address the calamity caused by Turkish forces in Syria. It’s up to Congress to act, to make it clear where the American government stands.
"I want to thank my friend, Ranking Member McCaul, for working with me to introduce this legislation."