Kentucky Republican Senator Rand Paul blamed U.S. policy in the Middle East for much of the chaos now sweeping through northern Iraq, arguing that American “over-involvement” in the Syrian civil war created a “jihadist wonderland” in the region.
Paul spoke Sunday to CNN’s Candy Crowley about the possible presidential candidate’s preferred strategy for dealing with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), an ultra-violent Sunni Islamist group which captured large swathes of northern Iraq and now threatens Baghdad.
“I think there is chaos in the Middle East,” Paul began, “and I think that’s because we created a vacuum. Before the Iraq War, I think there was something of a standoff between Sunni and Shi’ite for maybe 1,000 years off and on. Now we have a chaotic situation, we have a vacuum.”
“And I think one of the reasons why ISIS has been emboldened is because we’ve been arming their allies,” the senator noted. “We have been allied with ISIS in Syria. They have had a safe haven because we have been arming the rebels to keep Assad away from them . . . So I think our intervention in Syria has led precisely to what’s going on in Iraq.”
“They would not be empowered and in Iraq if we were not providing safe haven in Syria by arming their allies,” Paul continued. “We are where we are because we are arming the Syrian rebels . . . We’re with ISIS in Syria! We’re on the same side of the war. So those that want to get involved to stop ISIS in Iraq are allied with ISIS in Syria. So that’s the real contradiction to this whole policy.”
Paul also hit the Obama administration and many in his own party for their eagerness to topple Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad. “If we were to get rid of Assad, it would be a jihadist wonderland in Syria,” he explained. “It’s now a jihadist wonderland in Iraq, precisely because we got over-involved; not because we had too little involvement, but too much involvement.”