Cruz: Ramp Up Airstrikes, Arm Kurds Against ISIS, US Could ‘Focus’ Russia On ISIS, Doesn’t Pledge Boots On the Ground

Republican presidential candidate Texas Senator Ted Cruz stated that if ISIS took down the Russian airliner, it’s “an opportunity for the United States to focus Russia’s energy on ISIS” and expressed support for greater arming of the Kurds to fight ISIS and increased airstrikes while not expressing support for putting US boots on the ground on Thursday’s broadcast of CNN’s “The Lead with Jake Tapper.”

Cruz said that if ISIS is responsible for the downing of a Russian airliner in Sinai, “this is an opportunity for the United States to focus Russia’s energy on ISIS. ISIS is the face of evil, and if they’re responsible for this horrific terrorist attack, that’s all the more reason for a concerted effort, and a concerted commitment to destroy them. I mean, if you look right now, part of the problem is, Putin, I think, has taken the measure of the man in Barack Obama and doesn’t respect him, and it has limited — once Putin determines that Obama’s not credible, that he won’t do what he says, that makes the prospect of our working together seriously to target ISIS a lot less plausible.”

When asked if greater cooperation with Russia against ISIS would make Russia’s aggression in Ukraine a “secondary” concern, Cruz answered, “Well, listen, you can do both, and that’s one of the things American foreign policy has long recognized is that you can pursue more than one objective at one time. So, or example, when Russia invaded Ukraine, at the time I called on President Obama to do two things. Number one, to install the anti-ballistic missile batteries that had been scheduled to go into Poland and the Czech Republic. Obama and Secretary Clinton had canceled that in 2009, in an effort to appease Putin. … And the appeasement didn’t work. That would have been a powerful statement of america standing with our allies. You know, I met with a number of conservative EU members who were in town yesterday, and we were talking about exactly this issue. And it was striking that all across Europe, the members who were here were nodding and saying that would have had a powerful impact on underscoring that America stands with our allies. And then the second thing that we should have done at that time, is there were then 22 applications pending in the federal government to export liquid natural gas. President Obama should have held a national TV conference and said I’m approving every one of them right now today. Now, it would have taken some time for those to process through and flow out, but the effect of that would have threefold. Number one, it would have helped the people of Ukraine and Europe stand free from Putin’s economic blackmail that he uses energy to blackmail them. Number two, it would have hit Putin where it hurts, in the pocketbook. And number three, it would have created jobs and economic growth here. Now, that’s an example where we can press back against Russian aggression, but doing that is not inconsistent at the same time when you have a malevolent force like ISIS, working with them where our interests coincide.”

Cruz was also asked about his refusal to pledge ground troops to fight ISIS. He answered, “Look, there are some politicians who like to support boots on the ground in every conflict across the globe in an effort to lean forward and show how tough they are. I don’t think this is a game of Risk. I don’t think it should be politicians moving armies about. I think it should be driven by the national security imperatives and the military needs on the ground. Right now, what we’re doing is utterly ineffective. And I’ve spent a lot of time consulting with senior level military advisers, both active duty military and retired generals [and] admirals, and I believe our approach to ISIS should be twofold right now. Number one, overwhelming air power. And it’s worth underscoring, you know in the first Persian Gulf War, we had about 1,100 air attacks a day, it was overwhelming. After 37 days, Saddam Hussein’s army was crippled and we mopped in there 36 hours because of the impact of that overwhelming air attack. Right now, we’re launching 15-30 air attacks. It’s photo op foreign policy. And then the second piece, the Kurds, are boots on the ground right now. They’re fighting. They’re effective fighters. they’re loyal to us. They’ve been strong allies. and ISIS is using US military equipment that they seized in Iraq. The Kurds are using outmoded equipment, and the Obama administration refuses to provide weaponry to the Kurds because they think it would dismay Baghdad. I think that makes no sense.”

Follow Ian Hanchett on Twitter @IanHanchett


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