NAPLES, Florida — In an exclusive interview with Breitbart News, likely 2016 GOP presidential candidate Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) staked out a bold position on a foreign policy matter—pushing to arm Kurdish fighters against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) even more than the U.S. has already done, but also calling for the creation of a new nation of Kurdistan.
“Part of the problem is the Kurds aren’t getting enough arms,” Paul said. “The Kurds are the best fighters. The arms are going through Baghdad to get to the Kurds and they’re being siphoned off and they’re not getting what they need. I think any arms coming from us or coming from any European countries ought to go directly to the Kurds. They seem to be the most effective and most determined fighters.”
In addition, Paul called for giving the Kurds their own country for them to defend against radical Islamists.
“But I would go one step further: I would draw new lines for Kurdistan and I would promise them a country,” Paul said.
I think they would fight like hell if we promised them a country. It’s a little easier to say than it is to actually make it happen, because in order to actually draw a new country you’d have to have the complicity of Turkey and probably Iraq a little bit as well. There really is no Syria to be complicit with, but there is just a little piece of Syria—Kobani and in there is predominantly Kurdish. I think if you did that and could get piece between the Kurds and the Turks, and then the Turks would actually fight if the Kurds would give up any claim to Turkish territory.
Traditionally, “Kurdistan”–which isn’t a country but a region that’s spread across four different nations where Kurdish people have lived since ancient times–falls in regions of Turkey, Iran, Iraq and a small part of Syria.
Paul said that the president’s decision to ignore the Islamic, or religious, component to radical Islam is extraordinarily troubling. But he also said he thinks there should be “boots on the ground” to battle ISIS—but those boots on the ground need to be primarily Muslim soldiers standing up against the radical elements of their religion.
“I think that you’re naive is you ignore the religious component to these wars,” Paul said.
There’s a thousand year war between Sunni and Shia. There’s a more recent war between radical Islam and civilized Islam and between radical Islam and the West. But it’s all about religion and has to do with different religious sects.
If you don’t understand the religion, then you won’t be able to get a solution. So for example Mosul is predominantly, vastly Sunni Muslim. No Shia army is going to be able to occupy and control Mosul. It’s going to need to be Sunni.
When people say boots on the ground, I agree—there need to be Arab boots on the ground. And they need to be able to recognize the religious part of the conflict and there can’t just be Arab boots on the ground they need to be Arab Sunni boots on the ground to take back the areas that are predominantly Sunni.
Earlier in the day, before this interview on a campaign trip to southwest Florida, Paul discussed these same issues—and made the point that the boots on the ground need to be Muslims killing ISIS—in a grassroots meeting with conservative and Republican activists in the state. The Republican activists in Collier County rose in a standing ovation when Paul made the point.
Paul’s position is in line with that of Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), who earlier in February had said he wants to arm the Kurds.
“You know, I don’t believe right now we need American boots on the ground, and the reason is, we have boots on the ground already, with the Kurds,” Cruz said on ABC’s This Week in early February. “The Peshmerga are trained, effective fighters.”
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), another potential 2016 presidential candidate, has called for 10,000 U.S. troops to be sent in to battle ISIS in addition to arming the Kurds. But a lot of war-weary Americans–while not unopposed to sending in U.S. troops–are worried about getting into another war when Muslim forces aren’t willing to stand up to their own religion’s radical elements.