Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul is firing back at his party's interventionist wing, saying those who supported the Iraq war "emboldened Iran," while freeing President Barack Obama of blame for the current crisis in Iraq.
In a Meet the Press interview airing this Sunday, the 2016 presidential hopeful and libertarian icon responded to an op-ed by former Vice President Dick Cheney criticizing Obama's handling of the situation in Iraq.
"I think the same questions could be asked of those who supported the Iraq War," Paul said. "You know, were they right in their predictions? Were there weapons of mass destruction there? That’s what the war was sold on. Was democracy easily achievable? Was the war won in 2005, when many of these people said it was won? They didn’t really, I think, understand the civil war that would break out."
Paul added that he doesn't blame Obama for the ongoing turmoil in Iraq, but he questions whether the President has a solution to the crisis, during which Sunni militants from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) have seized vast territory and pushed the Iraqi military back to the outskirts of Baghdad.
"And what’s going on now—I don’t blame on President Obama," Paul said. "Has he really got the solution? Maybe there is no solution. But I do blame the Iraq War on the chaos that is in the Middle East. I also blame those who wer for the Iraq War for emboldening Iran. These are the same people now who are petrified of what Iran may become, and I understand some of their worry."
Cheney this week launched the Alliance for a Strong America, a group dedicated to pushing back against Obama's foreign policy as well as the GOP's libertarian wing. Paul's critique could apply equally well to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who apologized for her vote for the Iraq War in hew new book, "Hard Choices."
Meet the Press Moderator David Gregory noted that Paul is not a “Dick Cheney Republican” when it comes to American power in the Middle East.
"What I would say is that the war emboldened Iran," Paul replied. "Iran is much more of a threat because of the Iraq War than they were before—before there was a standoff between Sunnis and Shiites. Now there is Iranian hegemony throughout the region."
Watch the video of the exchange above.