Sanders Calls for Arab Nations to Step Up Fight Against Islamic State

BURLINGTON, Vt., Oct. 12 – U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said today that the challenge posed by the self-styled Islamic State in Iraq and Syria is not only an American issue, but a regional and international issue. 

Sanders said ISIS will not be defeated unless countries in the region like Turkey and Saudi Arabia send combat troops into the fight. Saudi Arabia has the fourth largest military budget in the world and an army of more than 200,000 soldiers, at least seven times greater that the ISIS forces.

The United States, Great Britain, France and other allies must support the fight against ISIS, Sanders added, but he said the effort will not succeed without active participation by Arab nations. “This is a battle for the soul of Islam and must be won by non-extremist Muslim nations,” he said. “It cannot be won if the war is portrayed in the Middle East as U.S. vs. ISIS, West vs. East and Christianity vs. Islam.

Sanders appeared today on CNN’s “State of the Union” to discuss the issue. In a statement afterward, the senator cautioned that a prolonged U.S. war in Iraq and Syria would cost hundreds of billions of dollars. Given the reluctance of the Republicans in Congress to raise taxes on the wealthy or to close corporate tax loopholes, the price of continued warfare in the Mideast likely would be paid for by cuts to programs that help working families in the United States.

“I fear very much the U.S. being dragged into a never-ending quagmire in the Middle East, a perpetual war which will cost us more lives, more injuries and hundreds of billions of dollars,” Sanders said. “The war against ISIS, a dangerous and brutal organization, cannot be won by the United States alone. It must be won primarily by nations in the region – Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Qatar, Kuwait, Jordan and Iran –  which must be prepared to send ground troops into action to defeat Islamic extremists.

“A prolonged war against ISIS will cost hundreds of billions of dollars,” Sanders continued. “Given the Republican Party’s reluctance to raise taxes on the wealthy, I have little doubt that the costs of war will be paid for by cuts to Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, education and environmental protection. At a time when the middle class of this country is disappearing and more people are living in poverty than at almost any time in the history of our country, this would be a disaster for working families.”