During the sixth GOP presidential debate of the 2016 election on Thursday, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie was asked about the importance of toppling Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
“Governor Christie, how important is it to remove Assad from power and how would you do it?” Fox Business anchor Maria Bartiromo asked, noting that former GOP candidate Sen. Lindsey Graham has said that the U.S. will find “Arab support” for its coalition against ISIS if Assad is removed.
“You’re not going to have peace in Syria with Assad in charge. You’re simply not,” Christie replied. “And so Senator Graham is right about this.”
Christie criticized President Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s approach, saying that Obama initially said, “If Assad uses chemical weapons against his people, that we’re going to attack.”
“He used chemical weapons, he’s killed, now, over a quarter of a million of his own people, and this president has done nothing,” Christie said. “In fact, he’s done worse than nothing.”
Christie went on to claim that Obama has used Russian President Vladimir Putin to “negotiate getting those chemical weapons back from Assad,” and as a result he said that the Russians and the Iranians are working together, “not to fight ISIS, but to prop up Assad.”
“The fact of the matter is that we are not going to have peace – we are not going to have peace in Syria,” Christie said. “We’re not going to be able to rebuild it unless we put a no-fly zone there, make it safe for those folks so we don’t have to be talking about Syrian refugees anymore.”
While Christie’s comments about Assad in Syria are nothing new, there was a noticeable difference in the fact that not one of the candidates on stage challenged his rhetoric.
During the fifth GOP debate on Dec. 15, Christie claimed that “ISIS is created and formed because of the abuse that Assad and his Iranian sponsors have rained down on the Sunnis in Syria.”
He was challenged by Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, who argued that “had Assad been bombed when he used chemical weapons two years ago, ISIS would be in charge of all of Syria now.”
“There are still people—the majority on the stage, they want to topple Assad,” Paul said. “And then there will be chaos, and I think ISIS will then be in charge of Syria.”
Paul also responded to Christie’s calls for a “no-fly zone” over Syria during the Dec. debate, saying, “Well, I think if you’re in favor of World War III, you have your candidate.”