Trump accuses rivals of wanting 'to start World War III' over Syria
Donald Trump told an audience in Oklahoma that he believes other GOP candidates want to start "World War III" over Syria and that Russia should be allowed to fight Islamic State.
Trump is staking out a non-interventionist position on foreign policy that will boost his standing with libertarians and many conservatives who think the US is overextended in our military commitments.
GOP presidential front-runner Donald Trump shared more of his views on foreign policy Friday, telling an audience in Oklahoma his 2016 rivals want to “start World War III over Syria” and suggesting the U.S. let Russia take up the fight against the Islamic State in the region.
“They want to start World War III over Syria. Give me a break,” Mr. Trumpsaid at the State Fairgrounds in Oklahoma City, The Hill reported.
“You know Russia wants to get ISIS right,” Mr. Trump said, using the acronym for the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. “We want to get ISIS. Russia’s in Syria. Maybe we should let them do it? Let them do it. What the hell are we, crazy?”
Mr. Trump’s remarks come as Russia is increasing its military forces in Syria, a move which has alarmed U.S. military and administration officials.
The U.S. is concerned that Russia will lend its own troops to help embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad take on the Islamic State terrorist group. While the U.S. is also leading a coalition force against the terror group, it also opposes Mr. Assad’s regime and has urged him to step down from office.
Mr. Trump’s comments on foreign policy have been heavily scrutinized and may be a stumbling block on his road to the White House.
He was widely criticized for a radio interview with Hugh Hewiit earlier this month, in which he appeared to confuse the names of top terrorist leaders and mixed up the Kurds with the Iranian Quds force — an elite military unit under the command of the Ayatollah and linked to terrorist activities in the Middle East.
Mr. Trump, an opponent of the nuclear deal with Iran, also said Friday that the U.S. had only empowered Iran by invading Iraq.
“I said don’t go into Iraq. I’m the most militant person here, the most militaristic person you’ll ever meet. I believe in the military strongly but I didn’t want to see us invade Iraq,” he said, The Hill reported.
“We spend $2 trillion, thousands of lives, wounded warriors all over the place that I love by the way… we got nothing. We can’t even go over there.”
This is smart politics, but is it in the best interests of the US to see Russia trying to vanquish Islamic State and prop up President Assad? It's a fair question and Trump would do well to expand on his notions of empowering Vladimir Putin in the Middle East while seeing a retreat by the US.
But Trump is right about his rivals, many of whom have suggested that the US will need boots on the ground in Syria if we are to defefat Islamic State. President Obama's policy of building a rebel army rather than send in US forces is a spectacular failure so the question will be revisited during the campaign.
Syria is a tar baby that may ensnare Russia if they get involved too deeply. In the meantime, Putin is putting a significant military force in a part of the world that they had been kicked out of decades ago. This can't help but increase Russian influence and, with a potential alliance with a nuclear Iran in the region, create a nightmare for US policymakers for years to come.
Sometimes, you're damned if you do and damned if you don't.