GOP Debate: Rand Paul Warns of Consequences of Regime Change in Syria

The fifth GOP debate of the 2016 presidential election was hosted by CNN on Tuesday, and it highlighted the candidates’ positions on foreign policy, terrorism and national security.

When asked if he still believes the hawks in the GOP are responsible for the rise of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) said he thinks “if you believe in regime change, you’re mistaken.”

Paul said that after the U.S., Saudi Arabia and Qatar “put 600 tons of weapons” into the war against Bashar al-Assad in Syria in 2013, it created a safe space. “We had people coming to our Foreign Relations Committee and saying, ‘Oh, we need to arm the allies of Al Qaeda,’” Paul said. “They are still saying this. It is a crazy notion.”

This is the biggest debate we should be having tonight: Is regime change a good idea; has it been a good idea? There are still people—the majority on the stage—they want to topple Assad. And then there will be chaos, and I think ISIS will then be in charge of Syria.

CNN moderator Wolf Blitzer asked Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fl.) to chime in on the subject, and while Rubio called for a broader coalition to strengthen the fight against ISIS, he also claimed Assad is one of the main reasons ISIS exists.

Assad is one of the main reasons why ISIS even exists to begin with. Assad is a puppet of Iran. And he has been so brutal toward the Sunni within Syria that he created the space that led to the people of Syria themselves to stand up and try to overthrow him.

Rubio said the fact that President Obama “led from behind” meant that there were “no alternative groups left to fight ISIS,” and that “led to the chaos which allowed ISIS to come in and take advantage of that situation and grow more powerful.”

When asked if he thought overthrowing Saddam Hussein was a good idea, Paul said although he thinks regime change is a bad idea, it doesn’t mean “Hussein was necessarily a good idea.”

What we have to decide is whether or not regime change is a good idea. It’s what the neoconservatives have wanted. It’s what the vast majority of those on the stage want. They still want regime change. They want it in Syria. They wanted it in Iraq. They want it in Libya. It has not worked.


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Rachel Blevins is a journalist who aspires to break the left/right paradigm in media and politics by pursuing truth and questioning existing narratives.

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