Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) said Monday that the U.S. was fighting “both sides” in a Middle East war, and expressed "mixed feelings" about airstrikes targeting the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
Paul noted that many of those who were pressing for airstrikes against ISIS had also called for the U.S. to attack Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime, which has been fighting the terror group.
ISIS is one of a number of groups seeking to overthrow Assad in Syria, even as it advances and captures more territory in Iraq.
"Do you know who also hates ISIS and who is bombing them?" Paul said. "Assad, the Syrian government. So a year ago, the same people who want to bomb ISIS wanted to bomb Syria last year.
“Syria and ISIS are on opposite sides of the war,” he continued. “We're now bombing both sides of one war that has spread into another country."
The U.S. is providing assistance to some moderate anti-Assad rebel groups but President Obama has not authorized airstrikes in Syria.
Paul is exploring a presidential run in 2016.
He has drawn criticism from fellow Republicans for pushing a more restrained foreign policy. Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R), another potential presidential contender, has slammed Paul as an "isolationist."
Paul defended his foreign policy views on Monday.
"There are a lot of people, Independent or Democrat, that would like a reasonable foreign policy where we're not always at war, where we are reluctant to go to war, where we have more of a moderate foreign policy, I think is appealing to a lot of people," Paul said. "I think Democrats fear that."