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Sen. Rand Paul: Obama trying to ‘save face’; no reason to go to war over Syria

Sen. Rand Paul isn't buying the Obama administration's public relations blitz to build public and congressional for an attack on Syria.

In an appearance Sunday on "Meet the Press," Mr. Paul, Kentucky Republican, said the United States has no business getting dragged into the Syrian conflict, despite the deadly Aug. 21 chemical attacks the Obama administration is blaming on Syrian leader Bashar Assad.

"I think the line in the sand should be that America gets involved when American interests are threatened. I don't see American interests involved on either side of the Syrian war," Mr. Paul said. "Who is on America's side over there? If the rebels win, will they be American allies? Assad's definitely not ... I'm not convinced anybody on the Islamic side will be American allies."

Mr. Paul, considered a likely 2016 Republican presidential contender, said President Obama has bungled the Syrian crisis.

"[Mr. Obama] made a grave mistake when he drew a red line. A president should be very careful about setting red lines he's not going to keep. But then again, when you set a red line that was not a good idea to begin with and now you're going to adhere to it or try to show your machismo, I think then you're trying to save face and really adding bad policy to bad policy."

Mr. Paul, who has clashed with defense hawks such as Sens. John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina in his own party, said the administration's justification for escalation in Syria doesn't add up.

"My interpretation of the current Obama administration policy is they want to fight for stalemate, then they want a negotiated settlement. They think that Assad has the upper hand now. They want to balance it out. But what I've told them is I'm not sending my son, your son or anybody else's son to fight for stalemate. When we fight, we fight when we have to."

Mr. Paul told host David Gregory that the Syrian crisis might have been avoided altogether if the Obama administration had done a better job of managing the U.S. relationships with Russia and China.

"I think the failure of the Obama administration has been we haven't engaged the Russians enough or the Chinese enough on this," he said. "If they were engaged, I think there's a possibility Assad could already be gone. The Russians have every reason to want to keep their influence in Syria, and the only way they do is if there's a change in government where Assad is gone but some of the same people remain stable. That would also be good for the Christians. I think the Islamic rebels winning is a bad idea for the Christians, and all of a sudden we'll have another Islamic state where Christians are persecuted. The best outcome for all the major powers would be a peaceful transition in government, and Russia could influence that if they told Assad no more weapons."

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