Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. (SANA via AP)
ON THE ISSUES | A big difference among the candidates on whether the United States should give up, for the moment, on trying to help Syrian rebels trying to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad and turn all its attention to destroying the Islamic State.
Cruz compared support for the rebels to when Obama “toppled Mubarak, a reliable U.S. ally” in Egypt and “as a result, Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood” took over. That brief description pretty much ignores the hundreds of thousands of Egyptians who went into the streets to demand Mubarak’s departure, and the fact that Mohammed Morsi became Egypt’s first democratically elected president in 2012.
Trump took the argument further, adding Libya’s Moammar Qaddafi to the leaders the United States should not have “toppled.” “We’ve spent four trillion dollars trying to topple people,” he said of money that would have been much better spent in this country. “And for what? The Middle East is totally destabilized…it’s a mess.”
Christie and Kasich argued strongly that the Islamic State won’t be defeated in Syria unless Assad goes. Christie noted that Iran, along with Russia, is Assad’s biggest backer. Seguing to the Iran nuclear agreement, he said that Obama had “set up an awful situation with his deal with Iran” by empowering and enriching Tehran. Supporting Assad, he indicated, was tantamount to caving in to Iran, and “if you miss Iran, you’re not going to get ISIS,” he said.