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Rand Paul blames Republican hawks for rise of ISIS

Republican presidential candidate Rand Paul is blaming his own party for the rise of the Islamic State group

Published: Updated:

Republican presidential candidate Rand Paul is blaming his own party for the rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group.

The senator from Kentucky said Wednesday that the Republicans’ foreign policy hawks “created these people.” That assertion led potential 2016 rival Bobby Jindal, Louisiana’s governor, to say Paul was unqualified to be president.

ISIS has seized one-third of Iraq and Syria and in recent days made gains in central Iraq.

“ISIS exists and grew stronger because of the hawks in our party who gave arms indiscriminately,” Paul said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” He continued: “They created these people. ISIS is all over Libya because these same hawks in my party loved - they loved Hillary Clinton’s war in Libya. They just wanted more of it.”

Foreign policy has emerged as a central debate in the 2016 Republican presidential primary.

Many of Paul’s Republican colleagues have offered aggressive rhetoric, but few specifics when asked about IS.

Paul favors less military intervention abroad, wants a dramatic reduction in U.S. money to foreign governments and stands in opposition to the Patriot Act and the U.S. policy behind drone strikes. It all makes him something of an outlier on foreign policy and national security in the Republican field.

He stood apart from many in his party in opposing U.S. military action in Syria before the ascension of the Islamic State.

Sensitive to being branded an isolationist in the race, he has scaled back some of his positions, no longer calling for deep cuts in the Pentagon budget, for example, and no longer proposing the elimination of foreign aid, including to Israel.

On ISIS, he wants coalitions of Arab troops - instead of U.S. troops - to take the lead on the ground.

Paul’s comments also underscore the challenge for former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, whose brother launched the invasion of Iraq more than a decade ago.

Jeb Bush said Wednesday that U.S. military leadership is key to stabilizing Iraq, although with American advisers and intelligence, not combat forces.

“Most particularly the United States needs to regain its position militarily in Iraq to bring some order to the Iraqi military,” he told Republicans during a call to Republican activists in Alabama.

In addition, the U.S. must also lead an international coalition to create support within Iraq to rid it of IS for the long term, Bush said. “You have to do this militarily and build on that with a political solution,” he said.

In his interview earlier, Paul described Iraq as “a failed state” and criticized Republicans who condemn his foreign policy as weak.