POLITICS

Syria ISIS airstrikes: Rubio voices support for Obama's military action in Middle East

  • AP

     (AP)

U.S. President Barack Obama is getting some support from across the aisle for his decision to call for airstrikes on ISIS militants in Syria.

Florida Senator and prospective 2016 Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio praised the strikes and said that he was hopeful that the attacks would help dismantle the violent organization also known as the Islamic State, or ISIL.

“I support the President’s actions to target ISIL’s facilities in Syria. I have argued for months that President Obama has the authority to confront this threat to the United States wherever they seek refuge,” Rubio said in a press release. “Defeating this menace to all who value freedom and tolerance will not be easy, but is essential to our security. My thoughts and prayers are with our men and women in uniform carrying out their duties as part of ongoing operations in Iraq and Syria.”

Rubio was one of the few Republican politicians of any clout to make known their feelings known about the strikes against ISIS. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker John Boehner have both been quiet on the strikes as have Sens. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Rand Paul, R-Ky. 

Cruz and Paul, both 2016 GOP presidential contenders, have advocated for airstrikes but added that they worry about arming rebels in Syria because the weapons could end up in the hands of terrorists.

"The inescapable irony is that someday the arms we supply would be used against us, or Israel," Paul said, according to The Hill. "It is also ludicrous to believe that we know where all of the money, arms and ammunition will end up, or who will end up benefiting from these shipments."

Besides calling for airstrikes, Cruz has said the best way to fight ISIS to increase security along the U.S.-Mexico border and strip any U.S. citizens supporting the group of their citizenship.

“The President's previously stated goal -- to "shrink" ISIS' "sphere of influence" until it is a "manageable problem" -- is not encouraging,” Cruz said in a recent opinion piece. “The objective should not be to make ISIS "manageable"; the objective should be to protect the United States and to destroy the terrorists who have declared jihad on our nation.”

The U.S. announced the strikes hours before Obama was due to arrive in New York for three days of talks with foreign leaders at the annual United Nations General Assembly. The cooperation by Arab partners provided a significant boost to Obama's efforts to build an international coalition to take on the Islamic State militants who have moved freely across the border between Iraq and Syria.

U.S. officials said Bahrain, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates participated in the strikes against Islamic State targets, as Obama significantly ramped up U.S. military involvement in Syria, a country that has been mired in a brutal three-year civil war. 

The U.S. and the five Arab nations attacked the Islamic State group's headquarters in eastern Syria in nighttime raids Monday using land- and sea-based U.S. aircraft as well as Tomahawk cruise missiles launched from two Navy ships in the Red Sea and the northern Persian Gulf.

American warplanes also carried out eight airstrikes to disrupt what the military described as "imminent attack plotting against the United States and Western interests" by the shadowy Khorosan Group, a network of al-Qaida veterans working with the Yemeni branch of al-Qaida, known as Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, to get foreign fighters with Western passports and explosives to target U.S. aviation.

"America is proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with these nations," Obama said during remarks from the White House shortly before departing for New York. "This is not America's fight alone."

Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, the top American military official, said the U.S. and its Arab allies achieved their aim of showing the extremists that their savage attacks will not go unanswered.

"We wanted to make sure that ISIL knew they have no safe haven, and we certainly achieved that," Dempsey told reporters as he flew to Washington after a weeklong trip to Europe.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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