Recap of Sunday Talk Shows on Syria Policy

The Republican presidential candidates, appearing on Sunday talk shows, discussed in length to Obama administration’s announcement of deploying 50 special operations forces in Syria to assist in the military campaign against ISIS:

Marco Rubio on Obama’s new Syria policy: “It’s an important start to what I think, from a tactical perspective, I think the broader issue is what is the strategy? And I think the strategy has to involve more coordination with the Kurds and also with Sunnis…because you’re not going to defeat ISIS a radical Sunni movement without a robust anti-ISIS Sunni coalition. So I do think it’s an important tactical step forward. It needs to be backed up with increased air strikes and so forth. So I don’t have a problem with the tactics of it. And the numbers might even have to be larger at some point. But I think the bigger issue is can they arrive at a strategy? And that’s what I think the administration is still struggling to outline.. ISIS will not be defeated unless they are confronted by a organized, anti-ISIS, Sunni movement. And that won’t happen without American assistance at some significant level like what you’re seeing proposed now.

On Russia’s incursion: “The Russians aren’t necessarily targeting ISIS right now. They’re targeting non-ISIS rebels. And it’s part of an effort to wipe out any non-ISIS fighters on the ground. So they can turn to the world and say that their only choices are either Assad or ISIS. And the second point is that the growth of ISIS will continue in Iraq. They’re spread now into Libya where they’ve become a very significant presence and increasingly in Afghanistan as well. And they’re using all these operating bases not simply to conduct regional efforts, but also to grow, recruit people online to attack us here in the United States.

On Foreign Policy advantage: “It is true that the presidency’s not like being a U.S. senator, but it’s also not like being a governor. There is no office in the world like the United States presidency. What I have shown over the last five years is judgment, good judgment, and understanding of the major issues before America, particularly on foreign policy. I do not believe there’s anyone else in this race that has shown better judgment on the issues before America today than I have and better understanding them, especially on foreign policy realm. Which is, at the end of the day, the most important obligation of a president. [CBS’s Face the Nation]

Ben Carson on Obama’s Syria policy: “I think that’s a move in the right direction, because we clearly need to have those special ops in lots of different areas, but certainly in terms of helping to guide what the Air Force is doing. I think it’s a good idea, I actually agree with that. But I think that that’s only a small part of it; we need to have a much bigger plan when it comes to battling the global jihadists .. My much bigger plan involves, you know, Putin and Iran also. Those are the forces that are propping up the Assad regime. And even though Putin came in there and said he was going to fight ISIS, he’s really fighting the anti-Assad forces. What we need to be thinking about is, how do we oppose him? First of all, look where most the refugees are, at the Turkey-Syrian border. I think we should establish a no-fly zone there and we should enforce it. We should be doing this in communication with Putin to try to decrease the likelihood of conflict and keeping the forces apart. But also we need to be opposing him in other parts of the world. It’s not just keeping his influence out of the Middle East, which he truly wants, but also in his own area of the world, the whole Baltic Basin, we need to have more than one or two armored brigades there to show some strength. And particularly you look at the Baltic States, they’re really quite nervous about him. When they look at what we did with Ukraine — or what we didn’t do — they have good reason to be nervous. We need to reestablish ourselves in that area. We need to give Ukraine offensive weapons. We need to reestablish a missile defense system in the eastern bloc of countries so that we oppose him. Let’s keep him on the run, we need to recognize that, you know, his fuel is oil. And we need to do everything we can to develop our energy resources at an economical rate so that we keep the oil prices down, which keeps him in his little box. Those are things that we need to be thinking about on a global basis. [ABC’s This Week]

Carly Fiorina on Syria policy: “I think it’s a bit too little, too late. Look, all of us who know anything about it have known that you cannot have a successful bombing campaign unless you have special operations troops on the ground helping to direct that campaign. President Obama hasn’t been willing to do that for political purposes. It’s also true that he has no strategy in Syria. He has no strategy for ISIS. And it’s also true that when the United States of America fails to act, as he has failed to act, are options are diminished.” [ABC’s This Week]

“I think this is a reflection of the reality, that when America does not act, when we do not lead as we have not the last three years under this president, our options become very constrained and the situation becomes more dangerous. I’m glad he did this, but we still do not have a strategy in Syria. We do not have a strategy to deal with ISIS .. When we do not lead, the world becomes a much more dangerous and tragic place, and we are seeing that in Syria.” [Fox News Sunday]

Lindsey Graham on Obama’s new approach on Syria: “It will not change conditions on the ground. Here’s what I’ve said, I intend to destroy ISIL. They want three things: they want to purify the Islamic faith and take it back to the 1100s, they want to destroy the state of Israel the attack infidels like up. Al Baghdadi said to the American colonel who turned him over to the Iraqis after he was in an American POW camp in Iraq, “I’ll see you in New York.” President Obama said he will degrade and destroy ISIL. Sending 50 American Special Forces into Syria in the eyes of ISIL shows that Obama is not all in, it is a sign of weakness to ISIL. They have sized Obama up and they think he’s weak. And to our allies, sending 50 troops means that we’re not committed to destroying ISIL. And if we’re not committed to destroying ISIL, they will attack us here. So, this is a failure on all fronts. These 50 American special operators are going to go in into a very bad spot with no chance of winning, and at the end of the day, this will not destroy ISIL. This is an increment change. It has not chance to success… My goal is to destroy ISIL because if we don’t hit them over there, they’re going to hit us here. And here’s what the president has done basically — he has surrendered on two fronts. His goal of degrading and destroying ISIL, this strategy will not work. At the end of the day, Barack Obama has turned out to be a completely incompetent commander-in-chief. He doesn’t listen to sound military advice. Leaving Iraq too soon led to the rise of ISIL, and John Kerry, his secretary of state, is a completely delusional man. What we’re about to accomplish is to turn Syria over to Russia and Iran, and to make sure that we never destroy ISIL on Obama’s watch, and pass this mess on to the next president.

“Iran is just slapping Obama and Kerry in the face.”~Graham: “I see Russia and Iran mopping the floor with Obama and Kerry. Russia is all in with Iran to support Assad. President Obama said Assad must go. The Russians say, no, he will stay. They’re fighting to keep Assad in power. Assad is a puppet of the Iranians. His regime is not going to be accepted by the Syrian people because he slaughtered 250,000 of them. It will destabilize the region .. This is screwed up at every angle. Assad is winning. We’re losing. ISIL is getting stronger, the 50 going on the ground are in harm’s way without any chance of success. I cannot tell you how bad this is. And here’s what John Kerry will do. He will cut a deal with the Russians and Iranians, where they gets control over Syria, the Iranians will have yet another Arab capital under their control and he will declare victory. Since this deal with Iran, the nuclear deal, Iranians have test-fired a missile in violation of the U.N. sanctions. They have put troops on the ground in Iran to hurt our interest and they have now jailed the fourth American business person.” [Fox News Sunday]

The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg: “The 50 troops is an incremental, it’s an intensification of an existing strategy. Look, this all depends on events. If the president can keep this problem in a box, then it’s fine. We stay where we are. The big variable is that ISIS or someone trained in ISIS – controlled territory does something outside of that territory, an act of terror, God forbid, an act of terrorism . Then we’re in a new world. That becomes obviously, among other things, a Republican talking point, a big question in the Republican race. Right now I think that Donald Trump has expressed it best, he expressed it to you best a couple of weeks ago, the feeling on the part of many Americans, when he said that, what are we going to do, have World War III over Syria? That’s where it is right now and it’s staying in that spot. President Obama understands that as well. But, again, if things change, if ISIS takes another huge city in Iraq or Syria, then we’re also in another world.” [CBS’s Face the Nation]

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