By Alexander Bolton - 06/19/14 05:34 PM EDT
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) on Thursday urged President Obama not to work with Iran over the sectarian strife in Iraq, and to withdraw U.S. personnel from the troubled nation before they become targets or hostages.
“We need to be developing and implementing an immediate plan to get out all nonessential American personnel, to get them to safety now,” Cruz said on the Senate floor. “I am deeply concerned, as all of us should be, that our people on the ground will become pawns in a sectarian conflict that we cannot control."
“If we have to rely on either to keep our people safe, we should not be there,” he said.
Cruz warned that the 275 Marines Obama deployed to defend the U.S. embassy in Baghdad and the 300 additional military advisers he ordered to assist pro-Maliki forces could also become targets of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
Cruz said the U.S. should in no way partner with Iran, which he called “the implacable enemy of the United States since 1979.”
He noted that Iranian revolutionaries went on to lay the foundations of the current Tehran regime, which took 54 Americans hostage for more than a year in 1979. He said they demonstrated no remorse when they asked for a U.S. visa to install one of those hostage-takers as their ambassador to the United Nations in New York.
“Just because Iran fears the ISIS jihadists, it does not follow that we should partner with them in this fight. The enemy of our enemy, in this instance, is not our friend,” he said.
He called Secretary of State John Kerry’s remarks entertaining possible cooperation with Iran “deeply disturbing.”
He argued Iran’s goal is to make Iraq a client state, drawing a parallel with attempts by Russian President Vladimir Putin to undermine Ukraine’s autonomy.
Cruz recognized that the extremist Sunni militants fighting for ISIS pose a serious national security threat to the United States, but he questioned the effectiveness of trying to stop them by brokering a political solution in Iraq.
Instead, he urged Obama to strike at the militants to degrade their “lethality,” an apparent reference to drone, offshore missile or airstrikes.
“Because of their actions and their stated intentions, it seems that a concise but decisive mission to degrade the lethality of ISIS would be in the national security interests of the United States. Such an action would not require the commitment of American combat forces,” he said.
Cruz argued that Obama should make clear that any strikes launched against ISIS aren’t meant to bolster Maliki’s rule but instead to demonstrate the United States’s ability to “strike the terrorists at the time and means of our choosing.”