By Ben Kamisar
It was a “mistake” for the American military to push Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq in 2003, Sen. Rand PaulRand PaulConservative group presses GOP to vote against spending bill Saudi skeptics gain strength in Congress Senators challenge status quo on Saudi arms sales MORE (R-Ky.) said Monday, adding that Iran is now “twice as strong” without Hussein’s regime checking its power.
“All the way back to the Iraq War, I think it was a mistake to topple Hussein. Hussein was the bulwark against Iran. The Sunnis didn’t like the Shiites, now Iraq is a vassal state for Iran,” the presidential candidate said during a meeting with Orthodox Jews at a Jewish day school in Brooklyn, N.Y, according to the New York Observer.
Paul also criticized the U.S.-led campaign that ousted Moammar Gadhafi from power in Libya. While Gadhafi wasn’t a “good guy,” he kept Islamic extremism in the country at bay, Paul said.
The senator added that the U.S. shouldn’t try to depose Syrian President Bashar Assad, amid accusations that Assad used chemical weapons on his own citizens, because Islamic militants could fill the power vacuum.
“Each time we topple a secular dictator, I think we wind up with chaos, and radical Islam seems to rise,” he said.
Paul attended the meeting seeking to bolster his relationship with the Jewish community, as he’s been questioned at times over his support for Israel.
“I think Israel is one of our best allies and best friends around the world," he said, according to the Observer. "They’re the only democracy in the Middle East and I’m very supportive."
Paul has called to cut U.S. foreign aid to the country as a way to strengthen Israel’s independence. But that move has been panned by some Jewish groups who see the aid as vital for security and symbolic of the ties between the two countries.
This story was updated at 4:32 p.m.