Rand Paul: Give the Kurds a country

Sen. Rand Paul
Washington CNN  — 

Sen. Rand Paul wants to give the Kurds their own country.

The Kentucky Republican, who is inching closer to a bid for president, said Tuesday in an interview with Breitbart that he believes the U.S. should not only directly arm Kurdish fighters, but also promise the Kurds “a country.” Paul acknowledged that turning the Kurdistan region into a country would be easier said than done, but touted the benefits of his proposal.

“I think they would fight like hell if we promised them a country,” Paul said, adding that a Kurdish country would also end the longstanding feud between the Kurds and Turkey.

The Kurds are an ethnic minority who primarily live in a region that spans Iraq, Turkey and Syria and various Kurdish factions have called for – and sometimes fought for – an independent, sovereign Kurdistan for more than 100 years.

The rise of ISIS in the region has also bolstered the Kurds’ stature on the international stage as Kurdish fighters proved to be the most effective ground force in repelling ISIS’s advance as Iraqi government forces collapsed in the north. With air support from the U.S.-led coalition and American weapons funneled through the Iraqi government, the Kurds retook the city of Kobani in Syria, which was nearly entirely under ISIS’s control at one point.

Paul has joined the chorus of Republicans calling for the U.S. to directly arm the Kurds without passing through the Iraqi government, but he has now taken a step further by calling for Kurdish independence. It’s a move that would certainly upset Iraq’s government in Baghdad, which is struggling to hold together a fractious and complex coalition of Sunnis, Shias and Kurds to keep the country in one piece.

But Paul’s call for the Kurds to get their own country also comes two weeks after the the libertarian-leaning senator called at CPAC for a U.S. foreign policy “unencumbered by nation-building” – indicating a departure from the neoconservative foreign policy that defined George W. Bush’s presidency.

It’s just another sign Paul is still trying to find his footing in his high-wire act of foreign policy.

Paul began distancing himself from his more isolationist foreign policy positions as 2016 neared and as a reinvigorated security and terrorism threat emerged in the guise of ISIS. Now, Paul is pushing a more stronghanded foreign policy that would rely on a robust military and project strength abroad.