WASHINGTON, D.C. – Yesterday, Senators Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) met with Ilham Ahmed, President of the Syrian Democratic Council to discuss the ongoing conflict in Syria.
"Ilham Ahmed has shown resilient leadership and courage for the Kurdish people,” Senator Blackburn said following the meeting. “You and the Kurdish people have been so steadfast in this fight. It is so important that we realize that and we honor that. As you have heard her say, securing the air space, having that no-fly zone, securing these camps where these ISIS fighters are being held, making certain that Turkey is out of this safe zone so that the Kurdish and the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) are going to be safe in this area, all of this is vitally important. They have depended on us for that because we have assured them we would be there. It is important for us to make certain that we continue to support our Kurdish partners. We appreciate you being here to meet with us." Remarks have been condensed for brevity.
Last week, Senator Blackburn joined a bipartisan group of colleagues in introducing the Countering Turkish Aggression Act. If enacted, these sanctions would remain in place until the Administration certifies to Congress that Turkish forces have withdrawn from all locations in the Syrian Kurdish community that they did not occupy prior to the October 9, 2019 invasion. Specifically, these targeted measures would prohibit the sale of defense articles, services, and technology to the Turkish military – and impose sanctions on any third-party entity who engages in those types of sales. The legislation would also authorize sanctions on the assets of President Erdogan and other key members of the Turkish political leadership. A section-by-section summary may be found here. The full bill text may be found here.
The largest Kurdish diaspora in the United States is in Nashville, Tennessee. The SDF have made significant sacrifices and contributions to the liberation of areas controlled by ISIS and the defeat of the so-called physical caliphate, losing nearly 11,000 brave fighters along the way.
On January 31, 2019, Senators Blackburn and Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) requested that President Trump “develop and implement a strategy to help protect the security and diplomatic equities of our Kurdish partners serving in the SDF during and after the withdrawal of United States military forces from Syria.”
Senator Blackburn included a provision in the Senate-passed 2020 National Defense Authorization Act to support the U.S. partnership with the Kurds in Syria.