GOP Rift Widens Over How to Handle Iraq, Middle East

Monday, 07 Jul 2014 09:30 AM

By Drew MacKenzie

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Republicans are fighting among themselves over the crisis in Iraq and the chaos in the Middle East, with the hawks calling for more military intervention while dove-like elements mainly want to stay out of the fray, The Los Angeles Times reported.

The growing division between the two sides within the GOP could change the face of the Republican presidential nomination in 2016, in a similar fashion to the Democratic primaries in 2008 when Barack Obama was handed the nomination over front-runner Hillary Clinton due to anger surrounding the protracted Iraq war.

Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, a likely GOP candidate in 2016, has openly criticized other Republicans who have blamed the violent Islamic insurgency in Iraq on Obama’s foreign policy. Paul, in fact, blamed Republicans who backed the George W. Bush administration’s invasion of Iraq for being the root cause of the crisis.

In a recent "Meet the Press" appearance, Paul said, "What's going on now I don't blame on President Obama. Has he really got the solution? Maybe there is no solution. But I do blame the Iraq war on the chaos that is in the Middle East. I also blame those who are for the Iraq war for emboldening Iran."

His stance on Iraq has pitted him directly against Sens. John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who had repeatedly called for the United States to keep military force in Iraq after the troops were pulled out in 2011 while warning of the dire consequences that could unfold without an American deterrent.

"I predicted this fully and completely and did it time after time after time," McCain said last month.

McCain has been outspoken about putting more troops on the ground in Iraq and for the United States to help arm Syrian rebels, while claiming that he has the backing of other Republicans. But few GOP lawmakers have voiced their support openly.

"I talk with them constantly; they understand what Sen. Graham and I are pushing," he said. "Most of them that I can see agree."

The Times noted that House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio has slammed he president for "taking a nap" as extremist fighters with the Islamic State gain a huge foothold in war-torn Iraq and Syria, but has not given any policy position on how Obama should solve the deepening crisis.

In general, potential GOP candidates in 2016, have been wary of how to deal with the situation in the Middle East, which irks GOP Illinois Rep. Adam Kinzinger, a major in the Air National Guard who supports airstrikes against IS.

"Some of the presidential contenders, this is their moment," Kinzinger said. "I’m not expecting everybody to take a hard position because some people, it's just not in their wheelhouse. But I think that the people that are putting themselves up to lead the free world really need to take a position either way. Stand on it."

Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz appears to sit on the fence between Paul’s and McCain’s positions on the Middle East. "I consider myself somewhere in between those two poles," he said.

But Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, another potential presidential candidate, is more on the hawkish side, saying, "We do not have the luxury of seeing the world the way we hope it would be. We have to see the world the way it is. And we must address these issues before they grow unmanageable."

Rubio said that Obama’s decision to send 300 advisers to Iraq was "a good first step," but also urged the president to target IS with airstrikes and create supply lines to arm Iraqi soldiers. The senator also wants the United States to arm moderate Syrian rebels and initiate greater "counterterrorism measures" in the strife-torn nation.

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