Tags: Emerging Threats | Exclusive Interviews | Iraq | Iraq in Crisis | ISIS/Islamic State | Middle East | War on Terrorism

Rep. Stockman to Newsmax: Arm the Kurds, Don't Train Syrian Rebels

By    |   Friday, 19 September 2014 09:36 PM

Instead of spending any of the $500 million Congress approved this week to train Syrian rebels to fight the Islamic State (ISIS), the United States should supply the Kurds with weapons they desperately need, Rep. Steve Stockman told Newsmax on Friday.

"The solution is to allow the Kurds, which are trained already, to have weapons," the Texas Republican said. "They're not happy and they're willing — and they have proven it to the American allies.

"We already have a willing group of people who want to risk their lives and faith," said Stockman, a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. "All they need is the tools, and we don't have to train them. We spend all that money just giving them equipment, that's all we've got to do.

"I don't understand our rationale and it's poor planning now. It's misguided and the money is going to be wasted."

The House on Wednesday voted 273 to 156 to grant Obama's request for the $500 million he had sought in May to train and equip the Syrian rebels. The cost would be covered by leftover Pentagon war funding from this year and was part of legislation to keep the federal government running through the end of the year.

Stockman was among the 71 Republicans voting against it, along with 85 Democrats.

The Senate passed the measure on Thursday, on a 78-22 vote. It also was opposed by 12 Republicans and 10 Democrats.

The legislation went to President Barack Obama for his signature. He praised Congress for its bipartisanship, saying that the votes showed that Americans were united in destroying ISIS.

"With their barbaric murder of two Americans, these terrorists thought they could frighten us, or intimidate us, or cause us to shrink from the world," the president said after the Senate vote. "But today they are learning the same hard lesson of petty tyrants and terrorists who have gone before. As Americans, we do not give in to fear."

Congress adjourned on Friday so legislators can go back to their districts and campaign for the November elections.

While Republicans in both congressional houses agreed with Secretary of State John Kerry's declaration on Wednesday that ISIS "must be defeated. Period. End of story" — many charged that Obama's plan was too little, too late. Others argued that the plan could lead to the United States being dragged into another civil war.

Islamic State militants have beheaded two American journalists, James Foley, 40, and Steven Sotloff, 31, and British aid worker David Haines, 44. Their executions were posted on the Internet.

The group also released a propaganda video Thursday featuring another hostage, John Cantlie, a British journalist they captured in late 2012. The Islamic State has taken over wide swaths of territory in Iraq and Syria in an effort to establish a caliphate.

The Senate also approved a bill providing up to $10 million for information leading to the arrest or conviction of those involved in Foley and Sotloff's murders.

Stockman was among a dozen bipartisan House members on Friday to call on Speaker John Boehner and Democratic Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi to schedule a vote on authorizing military force against ISIS when Congress returns in November, The Hill reports.

In his Newsmax interview, Stockman said Obama's plan for training the Syrian rebels smacks of when the United States left forces in Iraq to train soldiers after the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003.

Many of the weapons left in Baghdad have been stolen by the Islamic State. In addition, many Iraqi soldiers trained by U.S. forces fled in battles with ISIS, helping them to seize such key cities as Fallujah and Mosul.

"We trained Iraqis, who ran away," Stockman said. "Now, if you see the parades by ISIS, you can actually see the equipment. That's our equipment."

He noted that fellow Lone Star State Republican Rep. Ted Poe, who also sits on the Foreign Affairs panel, has pictures of ISIS members marching with "three brand new American Humvees rolling down the road, never been used, and they're in the hands of ISIS.

"We have done a horrible job managing the Iraqi situation and we're going to emulate it again in Syria," he said. "It hasn't proven successful in the past."

He also bucked many GOP calls for American combat troops in Iraq and Syria, which President Obama has emphatically ruled out, because the Kurds are already there.

"The Kurds have boots on the ground and they're begging for weapons. They have more than enough boots on the ground. All they need to do is to get weapons.

"It's not complicated, and they're willing to put their own boots on the ground, and they've been effective if they get the tools to accomplish the job," Stockman said. "But we're not going to do that. We're going to try and reinvent the wheel."

He said Obama's plan for increased airstrikes in Iraq — and in Syria for the first time — plus 475 U.S. soldiers to aid the outmatched Iraqi security forces reflected the president's "naivete on international relations and lack of concern."

"It's what happens when you get your briefings in writing and you go play golf and don't read the briefings. This is a total apathy to world politics and it's dangerous," he said.

Stockman likened the situation to when the United States helped topple the Shah of Iran in 1979 under Democratic President Jimmy Carter, only to be faced with the Ayatollah Khomeini and the subsequent capture of 52 Americans at the embassy in Tehran. They were held for 444 days.

"Jimmy Carter thought the shah was bad, so he replaced the shah with a tyrannical Islamist in Iran," he said. "While the shah may have had his flaws, he at least was a guy who would listen to America.

"The current regime in Iran is quite the opposite and it's persecuting its people way more than the shah ever did.

"So in essence, we are once against helping Iran, who's out to bring death to America and destroy America," Stockman said. "It's ironic, twice, that the greatest ally to Iran has been throughout the years the United States."

The first-term congressman emphasized to Newsmax: "We have to arm the Kurds. We cannot stand by. The only people in the region that are our allies are the Kurds.

"What we do, continually do, is ignore our allies — and we always try and look for another golden goose or somebody else that has a golden key, and that's nonsense.

"We're sowing the seeds of America's destruction, the way we're operating," Stockman said. "A lot of those weapons are going to end up in ISIS' hands."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Instead of spending any of the $500 million Congress approved this week to train Syrian rebels to fight the Islamic State (ISIS), the United States should supply the Kurds with weapons they desperately need, Rep. Steve Stockman told Newsmax on Friday.
ISIS, Kurds, arm, train, Iraq, Steve Stockman, Islamic State
Friday, 19 September 2014 09:36 PM
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