Sen. Bernie Sanders blasted Saudi Arabia on Friday for urging U.S. troops into a ground war against the Islamic State (ISIS) while making no such commitment of its own fighting forces, The Hill reports.
Sanders released a statement denouncing the Saudis "offensive" call for American infantry to join the fight in Iraq against ISIS.
"I find it remarkable that Saudi Arabia, which borders Iraq and is controlled by a multibillion-dollar family, is demanding that U.S. combat troops have 'boots on the ground' against ISIS," said the statement from Sanders, a political independent from Vermont who caucuses with Senate Democrats and is considering running for president in 2016.
"Where are the Saudi troops?" he asked. "With the third largest military budget in the world and an army far larger than ISIS, the Saudi government must accept its full responsibility for stability in their own region of the world."
Sanders was responding to remarks by Prince Saud al-Faisal, the Saudi foreign minister
, who complained on Thursday that rival Iran was leading ground assaults against ISIS in the Iraqi city of Tikrit and "taking over" Iraq in the absence of U.S. troops.
In a joint press conference with visiting U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, the prince said the Saudi kingdom "stresses the need to provide the military means needed to face this challenge on the ground."
Sanders has previously criticized Saudi rulers as "autocratic" royals who spend billions on defense annually, and therefore should "not expect that American taxpayers and the U.S armed forces will do their work for them," The Hill reports.
"Ultimately, this is a profound struggle for the soul of Islam," Sanders said in his statement on Friday, "and the anti-ISIS Muslim nations must lead that fight."
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