2016 Republican Field Offers Obama Advice on Iraq

Contenders with no foreign policy experience go to the mic with suggestions for the president’s handling of Middle East crises.

WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 16: U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) speaks after meeting with Republican senators regarding a bipartisan solution for the pending budget and debt limit impasse at the U.S. Capitol October 16, 2013 in Washington, DC. The Senate announced that it had reached a bipartisan deal on funding the federal government and the extending the nation's debt limit after 16 days of a government shutdown.
National Journal
Emily Schultheis
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Emily Schultheis
Aug. 10, 2014, 1:46 a.m.

AMES, Iowa — A crop of Re­pub­lic­an 2016 hope­fuls offered vary­ing ad­vice for how to handle the situ­ation in Ir­aq, but all called on Pres­id­ent Obama to of­fer a more co­her­ent and com­pre­hens­ive ex­plan­a­tion of his plans go­ing for­ward.

While most of the would-be pres­id­en­tial can­did­ates said they sup­port Obama’s de­cision to au­thor­ize tar­geted air strikes on the Is­lam­ic State of Ir­aq and Syr­ia, they called on him to out­line his for­eign policy vis­ion as it relates to Ir­aq and the Middle East more broadly.

Five Re­pub­lic­ans — Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, former Arkan­sas Gov. Mike Hucka­bee, Louisi­ana Gov. Bobby Jin­dal, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, and former Sen. Rick San­tor­um of Pennsylvania — ad­dressed the is­sue with re­port­ers fol­low­ing their re­spect­ive speeches at the Fam­ily Lead­er­ship Sum­mit in Ames, a gath­er­ing of re­li­gious con­ser­vat­ives.

Cruz called on Obama to seek au­thor­iz­a­tion from Con­gress should the air strikes con­tin­ue, call­ing the rise of IS­IS the “latest mani­fest­a­tion of the fail­ures of the Obama-Clin­ton for­eign policy” and say­ing the con­gres­sion­al au­thor­iz­a­tion pro­cess would help force Obama to “ar­tic­u­late a clear mil­it­ary ob­ject­ive.”

IS­IS is “the face of evil,” he said. “I’m glad that Pres­id­ent Obama is fi­nally be­gin­ning to take the threat of IS­IS ser­i­ously.”

Their com­ments came just days after the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion an­nounced the air strikes, with the pres­id­ent writ­ing in a let­ter to Con­gress that the strikes would be “lim­ited in scope and dur­a­tion.” Over the course of the daylong event, the 2016 pro­spects and oth­er speak­ers blas­ted Obama’s over­all for­eign policy lead­er­ship on is­sues ran­ging from IS­IS and Ir­aq to the U.S. re­la­tion­ship with Is­rael.

San­tor­um said Obama should have used his “in­cred­ible powers of per­sua­sion” to keep more troops in Ir­aq in 2011.

“It’s stun­ning that they fall back on that it wasn’t their fault,” San­tor­um said. “I just think that’s false.”

Hucka­bee did not think ad­di­tion­al ground forces were ne­ces­sary, but said the United States should be arm­ing Kur­d­ish forces dir­ectly.

“Should we have ground forces? No, we don’t need them,” Hucka­bee said. “”¦If we had good sense, we would arm the Kur­ds as we said we would.”

In his speech to the crowd of re­li­gious con­ser­vat­ive act­iv­ists, Perry cri­ti­cized Obama’s over­seas out­look as a whole, say­ing his for­eign policy is “ab­so­lutely — it’s not dis­tin­guish­able from any­thing.”

Jin­dal praised Obama’s de­cision to or­der the air strikes, say­ing it helped pre­vent “the im­min­ent slaughter” of Chris­ti­ans and oth­er re­li­gious minor­it­ies, but that Obama has yet to ex­plain a “co­her­ent” for­eign policy.

“One of the things that frus­trates me, we’ve still not heard a co­her­ent strategy when it comes to deal­ing with IS­IS,” he said. “I think [Obama] owes it to the Amer­ic­an people, he owes it to our troops in uni­form, to define what the stra­tegic vis­ion is, what the stra­tegic plan is.”

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