Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) raised eyebrows this weekend when he endorsed one of the most hawkish positions toward the Islamic State militants currently wreaking havoc in Iraq and Syria.
"If I were president, I would call a joint session of Congress," Paul told the AP. "I would lay out the reasoning of why ISIS is a threat to our national security and seek congressional authorization to destroy ISIS militarily."
That put the self-professed non-interventionist to the right of many of his fellow presidential hopefuls, who sounded more tentative notes when asked about the proper U.S. response. Seeking to "destroy ISIS militarily" would require some sort of ground presence in the region, and involve larger American engagement in another Middle East conflict.
But during an interview on Sean Hannity's radio show on Wednesday, Paul sought to clarify that position. The libertarian-leaning senator said that Iran, Syria, and Turkey could be “enjoined” in fighting Islamic State militants because of their proximity and interest in the region.
“Right now, the two allies that have the same goal would be Iran and Syria, to wipe out ISIS. They also have the means and the ability and they also have the incentive to do so because Assad’s clinging for power and clinging for life there,” Paul said, as quoted by BuzzFeed.
The possible presidential contender also said that while the U.S. can provide air support, other nations should ultimately take the lead in rooting out Islamic State militants on the ground.
“So I also think that Turks really should be enjoined in this. And I do think that there can be a role for America. But I would rather see the president come to a joint session of Congress, [ask] for permission, and if he gets it, I still would like to see the ground troops and the battles being fought by those who live there. We can give both technological as well as air support. That could be the decisive factor in this," Paul said.
While President Barack Obama promised Wednesday to "degrade and destroy” the extremist group after they beheaded a second American journalist, he has held off on escalating U.S. airstrikes outside a small area of Iraq. It's unclear from Paul's remarks, however, whether he supports going after ISIS in its haven in Syria.
Paul's proposed path to intervention has complicated recent attacks he has levied against members of both parties, including a key contrast he has tried to make between himself and other prospective 2016 challengers. After he initially made the case against U.S. intervention in Iraq in June, Paul expressed "mixed feelings" about airstrikes later that month. He then followed up by criticizing "war hawks" like Hillary Clinton, only to advocate for war himself two days later.