Santorum: We Should Send Troops and Air Forces to Iraq, But Not Syria

‘Right now, Syria is not a viable front for United States or United States troops’


BLITZER: “Republican presidential candidate, the former Pennsylvania senator, Rick Santorum, is with me right now. Senator, thanks very much for coming in.”

SANTORUM: “You bet, Wolf.”

BLITZER: “So if you were president right now, what would you do?”

SANTORUM: “Well, I would have done this before this bombing, but this bombing just points out how dangerous ISIS is and is not contained to just the geographical area where they -- where they are present. They are recruiting and expanding all over the world because we have allowed them to maintain their territorial integrity. Maintain their caliphate. Maintain their claim that they are a legitimate Islamic state. As long as we allow them to maintain that, I think charade, then they're going to continue to be able to recruit. We need to, I'd say, focus our effort in Iraq, not in Syria, where it's an absolute mess, but in Iraq where we have the possibility of arming the Kurds, cooperating with the Kurdish -- the Peshmerga, cooperating with the Iraqis who want to fight and begin to move them out of Iraq. That, I think, has to be the first priority. BLITZER: Which some of your Republican challengers say they -- they would send a lot more troops, boots on the ground, not just to Iraq but to Syria as well.”

SANTORUM: “Yes, I'm not -- I'm not for sending troops to Syria, but I am for sending more troops to Iraq. Look –“

BLITZER: “Are you for a no-fly zone over Syria?”

SANTORUM: “Again, we have -- we have -- the president has put us in a situation in Syria that I think is untenable. We have the Russians in there right now flying. We have them attempting to help Assad. We -- now the president has seemed like, well, you know, Assad can stay for a while and that's OK. We have created an absolute cesspool in Syria and I don't think intervening in that is a good idea right now. But we have clear opportunities in Iraq. We have troops on the ground in Iraq. We are flying missions in Iraq. And we should be stepping up those to actually try to move them out of Iraq.”

BLITZER: “Sinai's a really dangerous place right now. The United States has about 715 or 725 soldiers in Sinai right now. They've been there going back to the signing of the Israeli/Egyptian peace treaty back in 1979. Are they secure? Are they safe? Would you keep them there or would you pull them out?”

SANTORUM: “Well, I mean, as -- I think we need to keep our treaty commitments between Egypt and Israel. And if -- if our Israeli allies would want them to continue to be there and the Egyptians want us to -- to maintain a presence there, I think we should -- we should continue on. I'm not particularly concerned about them. Again, we have to hit at the root. The root is ISIS. And ISIS is going to continue to be powerful unless we begin to take some of their ground.”

BLITZER: “But if you don't take their ground -- and they're headquartered in Raqqa, Syria, right now. And if you're not going to send U.S. troops in there, no-fly zones, how are you going to deal with them in Syria?”

SANTORUM: “Well, again, you deal with them where you have the front to be able to deal with them. Right now Syria is not a viable front for the United States or United States troops. The viable front is, in fact, in Iraq, and that's where we need to -- to put our boots on the ground and put our air forces in.”

BLITZER: “Let's talk politics for a moment while I have you. There's a big Republican debate coming up next week. I take it you're going to -- have you been told already you'll be in that second tier?”

SANTORUM: “I qualify in all the -- all the polls they're looking at, we qualify.”

BLITZER: “So you'll be in the second tier. You won't be on the main stage.”

SANTORUM: “Unfortunately not.”

BLITZER: “How disappointing is that to you?”

SANTORUM: “Well, it's -- look, it's difficult. I mean I have people coming up to me all the time and say, you know, I wish you were running. I said, well, I am running. Oh, really, I haven't seen you in the debates. And so, you know, the fact that the RNC and the networks have segmented this field I think has been a real injustice to a lot of candidates who, as we proved four years ago, who can sit back in the polls, in the national polls. I mean you look at Chris Christie, who's dropping down into the second debate. You know he's running, you know, fifth in New Hampshire, sixth in New Hampshire. I mean you have -- you have a guy who may be kicked out of the debate who's, you know, Bobby Jindal, who's --who's running, you know, in the top ten right now in the late -- in one of the polls, at least in Iowa. This is -- this is the problem with using national polls that have no relationship to actually who the strongest candidates are in the states that matter. And that's in Iowa and New Hampshire. And I showed that four years ago. I was at 2 percent in the national polls the week before I won the Iowa caucuses. So I guess if you'd have excluded anybody, you'd have excluded me from the last debate in Iowa and I went on to win the caucus.”

BLITZER: “This last Fox poll, they're going to use it, obviously. They're going to announce later tonight who's in the first tier, the second tier, who's in no tier at all.”

SANTORUM: “Right.”

BLITZER: “It has you basically at zero. If you take a look, Trump's at 26, Carson, 23, Cruz, 11, Rubio, 11, Bush is only at 4 percent. Everybody else, low single digits.”

SANTORUM: “Right.”

BLITZER: “You're not even registering on this poll. And Donald Trump says anyone that low in the national polls should do this. Listen to what he said.”



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