The ongoing situation in northern Syria is like the TV series “Game of Thrones,” U.S. Sen. James Lankford said Wednesday prior to an appearance at the Tulsa Regional Chamber.

“Everybody is against everybody,” he said.

Like the popular TV series, Lankford said, the plot line is complicated, with few clear-cut heroes.

That plot took a new turn over the past few days with President Donald Trump’s decision to reassign U.S. forces from a region disputed by Kurds, Turks and Syrians.

The decision directly involves only 50 to 100 American service members, but transferring them elsewhere in Syria removed the chance of a direct confrontation between Turkish and American troops.

Lankford told the Chamber audience he agrees with Trump that the U.S. needs to find a way to disentangle itself from “forever wars,” as the president put it, but is uneasy about abandoning the country’s long-time Kurdish allies.

“They share our values about human dignity,” Lankford said. “They are our close allies, not only on the battlefield but philosophically.”

According to news reports, Turkey and its Syrian allies launched an attack against the Kurdish enclave in northeast Syria early Wednesday, despite Trump’s warning not to do so.

Ostensibly, the fight is about Kurdish expansion from their autonomous region in northwest Iraq into northern Syria. The Kurds have long sought an independent homeland carved from portions of Iraq, Syria, Turkey and Iran.

Those countries are, not surprisingly, opposed to such an enclave.

Lankford said he was to be briefed later Wednesday on details of the latest situation, while Trump threatened economic sanctions against Turkey, which is a fellow member of NATO but under President Recep Erdogan (pronounced “Air-du-wan”) has strengthened ties with Russia.

“I’m not a fan of where the Turks are at this point,” said Lankford. “The Turks are not the same ally they were (before).”

Lankford clashed with Erdogan over the Turkish government’s imprisonment of an American evangelist and was involved in stopping the shipment of F-35 fighter jets and spare parts to that country.

“But,” he said, “we’ve got to have a way to not have a war between two NATO allies — between Turkey and the United States.”

Lankford touched on several other subjects, including the inquiry into whether Trump’s attempts to enlist foreign governments’ assistance against Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden warrant impeachment.

Lankford said Trump is “loose” in his speech but that it’s too soon to say whether he should be removed from office. Very few observers believe he will be, if for no other reason than doing so would require at least 20 Republican senators and all 47 Democrats.

Lankford also lauded television celebrity Ellen DeGeneres, who has taken some flak for sitting with President George W. Bush at a recent football game.

”It doesn’t mean you’ve sacrificed your values to sit down and talk with someone you disagree with,” he said.

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Randy Krehbiel


Twitter: @rkrehbiel

Randy has been with the Tulsa World since 1979. He is a native of Hinton, Okla., and graduate of Oklahoma State University. Krehbiel primarily covers government and politics. Phone: 918-581-8365

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