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Pelosi leads a surprise delegation to Jordan for ‘vital discussions’ on Syria crisis

By STEVE HENDRIX | The Washington Post | Published: October 20, 2019

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., led a surprise congressional visit to Jordan during the weekend, highlighting her sharp disagreement with President Donald Trump over policy in the Middle East, a region that has been roiled by Trump’s abrupt removal of U.S. troops from northern Syria and Turkey’s subsequent attacks on Kurdish enclaves.

“With the deepening crisis in Syria after Turkey’s incursion, our delegation has engaged in vital discussions about the impact to regional stability, increased flow of refugees, and the dangerous opening that has been provided to ISIS, Iran and Russia,” Pelosi said after meeting with King Abdullah II and senior Jordanian officials Saturday night.

Neither country released details of the talks before the delegation departed for the U.S. on Sunday morning. The trip came as a hastily brokered five-day cease-fire in Syria was struggling to take hold entering its third day.

Pelosi earlier had called the cease-fire deal “a sham” that gave a pass to Turkey’s offensive at the expense of the Kurds, a key ally in the recent fight against Islamic State militants in Syria. Coverage of Pelosi’s “middle of the night” meetings in the Jordanian press focused largely on concerns that Turkey’s assault will result in the release of thousands of ISIS fighters, many of them from Jordan, from Syrian prisons.

“This visit comes at a crucial time of threats to stability in the region and the control of Isis,” said the daily paper Al Ghad.

Pelosi has been harshly critical of Trump’s move in Syria, which was greeted with dismay by governments throughout the region. Israeli security experts called it a “betrayal” of the Kurds, and many saw Pelosi’s sudden appearance in Amman as a globe-hopping slap at the president.

“I don’t think it matters what they talked about, what matters is that she came here to draw a line under his abandonment of the Kurds and the outrage it has caused,” said a former Israeli general, who asked not to be named because of his ties to the military.

Congressional visits, especially to conflict zones, often are kept secret for security reasons. The trips by congressional delegations, known in Washington as codels, have been known to create political waves.

Pelosi has made other international stops that underscored her differences with Trump, including a visit to the Irish border to decry possible damage to the country from Brexit, which the president has supported enthusiastically. In January, during the government shutdown, Trump revoked the speaker’s access to a military plane just as her delegation was preparing to depart for Afghanistan.

In Jordan, the state-run Petra news said Abdullah thanked the speaker for making the trip and for Congress’ long-standing support of his country. He “urged a political solution that safeguards Syria’s territorial integrity and the unity of its people, while guaranteeing the safe and voluntary return of refugees.”

Trump has faced a rare bipartisan backlash for his Syria move, and one Republican lawmaker, Rep. Mac Thornberry of Texas, traveled with Pelosi to Jordan. Thornberry, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, announced in September that he would retire at the end of his term.

The other members of the nine-person delegation included Armed Services Committee Chairman Rep. Susan Davis, D-Calif., Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Rep. Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., and Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., the head of the Intelligence Committee, who is leading the impeachment inquiry against the president.

Congress is expected to vote on proposed sanctions against Turkey in coming days.

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