- The Washington Times
Wednesday, October 16, 2019

The top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee said Wednesday the Trump administration’s decision to pull back troops from a buffer zone between Turkey and Syria is a critical mistake.

In an interview following a Wednesday hearing with the State Department’s top Iran negotiator, Sen. Robert Menendez, New Jersey Democrat, told The Washington Times that the move is “one of the biggest national security blunders I’ve seen ever made.”

Mr. Menendez, part of a bipartisan chorus on Capitol Hill that has spoken against the recent troop withdrawal, said the hearing on U.S. policy toward Iran “just goes to prove … that we have totally weakened our position as it relates to Iran and Syria.”

His comments come as a Turkish-led military offensive ramps up in Northern Syria, and Russian troops move into the region to back up Syrian-led forces caught in the middle of the conflict.

Mr. Menendez slammed the answers provide by Brian Hook, the State Department’s Iran point man, in the often heated hearing. The senator said afterward he was still not satisfied with the administration’s answers.

The ranking member said Mr. Hook, who insisted that the latest developments in Syria do not make Iran more powerful and influential in the region, is “very good at creating diversions.”

• Lauren Toms can be reached at lmeier@washingtontimes.com.

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