Republican presidential candidate Sen. Rand Paul says it was a big "mistake" to topple Iraqi strongman Saddam Hussein — and that it may have made Iran "twice as strong as it was before the Iraq War."
Speaking to Orthodox Jews at the Torah Umesorah Hebrew Day School in Brooklyn, N.Y., Paul also said he doesn't support war with Iran over its nuclear bomb program, and blamed Democratic presidential contender Hillary Clinton for the turmoil in Libya
after U.S. forces dumped Moammar Gadhafi, the New York Observer reports.
Paul also warns that any attempt to oust Syrian dictator Bashar Assad would only lead to the Islamic State's (ISIS) being "in charge of Damascus."
"Each time we topple a secular dictator, I think we wind up with chaos and radical Islam seems to rise," the libertarian-leaning Kentucky lawmaker told the conservative audience, the Observer reports.
"All the way back to the Iraq War, I think it was a mistake to topple Hussein," he said. "Hussein was the bulwark against Iran. The Sunnis didn't like the Shiites, now Iraq is a vassal state for Iran."
"I'm worried [Iran] is twice as strong as it was before the Iraq War."
Paul, who has been questioned about his support for Israel, attended the meeting in a bid to bolster his relationship with the Jewish community, The Hill
"I think Israel is one of our best allies and best friends around the world. They're the only democracy in the Middle East, and I'm very supportive," he said.
But he contends that Clinton, as secretary of state, made a mess of things in the Middle East.
"Foreign policy has a spectrum," Paul said, the Observer reports. "Hillary's war in Libya is, was, and continues to be an utter disaster. Gadhafi wasn't a good guy, but he suppressed radical Islam. Now that Gadhafi is gone, the country is in civil war, the ambassador was killed, our embassy fled … the country is divided and a third of the country supports ISIS."
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