A fascinating portion of this week’s Republican debate centered around the issue of Syria, U.S. intervention, defeating ISIS, and even Russia. And what was said ran the gamut from we shouldn’t get involved to we should go to war with Russia.
What are these guys talking about?
This is a Reality Check you won’t see anywhere else.
When it comes to the issue of Syria and eight different Republican candidates for president, you get eight different answers.
“First thing I wouldn’t do is I wouldn’t arm our enemies. I wouldn’t arm ISIS,” Kentucky Senator Rand Paul said during the most recent Republican presidential debate. “Most of the people who want the no fly zone also favored arming the enemies of al-Qaeda. That was the dumbest most fool-hearted notion. They wanted to arm the allies of al-Qaeda. That’s how al-Qaeda grew. First thing you do is not arm your enemies.”
Senator Paul is correct when he says that the U.S. has funded so called moderate rebels in Syria. Those rebels defected to two groups. In 2012 and 2013 they were defecting to al-Nusra Front the Syrian wing of al-Qaeda and then in 2014 and 2015 they began defecting to the Islamic State (ISIS).
Maybe the most high profile of those defectors is Gul-murod Kha-li-mov, who boasts about being trained by U.S. forces in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and being trained by Blackwater.
Which is why it doesn’t make sense for former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush to have taken this position:
“The threat to the homeland relates to the fact that we haven’t dealt with the threat of terror in the Middle East. We should have a no-fly zone in Syria. We should have support for the remnants of the Syrian free army and create safe zones.”
The Syrian free army that Bush mentioned there? Well, it is the FSA or the Free Syrian Army, and it doesn’t exist anymore. As for so called moderate trained rebels in Syria that Bush wants to protect, that program was an utter failure.
The program was abandoned outright last month, with only 190 rebels ever trained and only about half of them ever getting as far as Syria. Despite this, the Pentagon still managed to blow through most of its budget, capping out at $384 million—or more than $2 million per trainee.
And then the conversation turned to stopping Russia from fighting ISIS in Syria. Ben Carson indicated that what we should be doing in Syria isn’t as much about stopping ISIS as it is about stopping Russia.
“What we have to recognize is that Putin is really trying to spread his influence throughout the Middle East,” Carson said. “This is going to be his base. We have to oppose him there in an effective way.”
Here’s how Donald Trump responded: “As far as Syria, Putin wants to go in and I got to know him very well cause we were both on 60 Minutes. We did very well. If Putin wants to beat the hell out of ISIS I’m all for it 100 percent. I can’t understand how anyone would be against it.”
And there you had the other side. Trump asking the question, why wouldn’t we allow Russia to fight ISIS, to use their weapons, their soldiers, their money to push ISIS out of Syria? And by the way, they are winning.
Assisted by Russian air strikes, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s army broke an ISIS siege at a key airbase in Aleppo province on Tuesday that had been ongoing since 2013, liberating nearly 1,000 troops and lending credence to the idea that Putin’s air strikes have tipped the scale against ISIS in Syria.
So what you need to know is that U.S. foreign policy in Syria has become so convoluted that the majority of the people who claim that they want to lead it don’t understand it.
Do you? We want to fight ISIS while also fighting Assad in Syria.
Even though ISIS is fighting against Assad in Syria, and the Russians are helping Syria fight ISIS so we may have to fight Russia to stop them from fighting with Syria against ISIS.
If that sounds insane to you, that’s because it is.