The militants who are taking over key parts of Iraq can be more dangerous than al-Qaida, Sen. Marco Rubio said Sunday.
The Florida Republican, who sits on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said on CBS’s “Face the Nation” that the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), an al-Qaida breakaway group, is gaining more power and wants to attack the United States.
“They want to establish an Islamic caliphate in sections of both Syria and Iraq and other places, potentially Jordan is next at some point,” he said. “And then they want to launch attacks in the exterior, external operations, including targeting our homeland. This is an extremely serious national security risk for the country if they were to establish that safe haven of operation.”
Rubio said that ISIS was out to establish itself in certain regions in order to lay the groundwork for ambitious attack plans. That is what al-Qaida did, Rubio said, before attacking the United States in 2001.
“ISIS is trying to establish the exact same thing in the Iraq-Syria region that they are increasingly controlling,” Rubio said. “And then from there, from this caliphate that they are setting up, they will continue to recruit, and train, and plot, and plan, and eventually carry out external operations in Europe, and potentially even here in the United States. So this is a very serious national security risk for the immediate and long-term future of our country.”
Rubio, who often has been critical of the Obama administration for not responding promptly or aggressively enough to overseas crises that can have broad repercussions, said that the president’s plan to send 300 advisers to Iraq must be more than symbolic.
“I think that we need to figure out a way to cut off those supply lines from Iraq -- from Syria into Iraq,” Rubio said. “We may potentially even have to target their command and control structure that they have established, including in portions of Syria.”
“In the meantime, I think this also calls for us to continue to empower those moderate rebel forces in Syria who are engaged in conflict against ISIS, not just Assad,” he said. “And I think we need to provide more assistance for Jordan, both in security and in their border, because I think this poses a risk to Jordan down the road and one we should take very seriously.”
Rubio was less absolute about whether Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki should resign.
He said that al-Maliki’s leadership has been detrimental to the nation, but said his departure from his post would not necessarily solve the problem in Iraq.
“The question is what replaces him,” Rubio said. “I certainly don't think he's been a good prime minister. I certainly believe that many of the problems that Iraq now faces are a direct result of failure of his leadership."