Florida Sen. Marco Rubio said Sunday that the only way to defeat the Islamic State is to deploy a ground force of Sunni Arabs aided by a limited number of U.S. special operators.
“It’s the only way to do it. They have to be defeated by a ground force and have to be made up primarily of Sunnis,” said Mr. Rubio, who is competing for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination.
The GOP field is turning its gaze to foreign policy in the wake of coordinated terrorist attacks in Paris that killed about 130 people on Nov. 13.
Candidates have criticized President Obama as being aloof or lacking a clear strategy to defeat the Islamic State, which claimed responsibility for the attacks and is recruiting Islamic extremists from its base in Iraq and Syria. The latter country has been torn apart by civil war, leaving a vacuum for the mostly Sunni Arab extremists to exploit.
Mr. Rubio said he voted in 2013 against allowing Mr. Obama’s bid to use force against Syrian President Bashar Assad — who appeared to have crossed the White House’s “red line” by deploying chemical weapons — because he thought it would be counterproductive.
“I felt that airstrikes — and I still do — against Assad at the time would have been counterproductive,” he said. “He would have survived. He would have remained in power, and it would have strengthened his hand and allowed him to send the message to the world that he had taken on the United States and still held on. In fact, it may have rallied some in the Arab world to his side as a result of such a strike.”