In a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing Thursday, Kentucky U.S. Sen. Rand Paul spoke about the possibility of the U.S. sending a confusing message because of its conflicting interests in the Middle East.
In Syria, where the U.S. has provided support to moderate Sunni Muslim rebels, Paul says "we are on the same side as ISIS," (the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, also called ISIL), which is fighting to defeat President Bashar al-Asad. In Iraq, the United States opposes ISIL, which promises to take Baghdad. "We are on both sides of two different wars," Paul said.
To further complicate the situation, the Shiite government in Iran, which the United States has sanctioned because of its nuclear program, has announced it will send troops to help the Iraqi government that the United States is supporting.
Paul urged caution, because "for someone who's going to lay down their life it needs to be much more, I think, clear cut who is our enemy." Paul also voiced disapproval that the country could go to war without a vote from Congress.
Sen. Mitch McConnell in a statement urged President Obama to "act quickly to provide assistance to the Maliki government before every gain made by U.S. and allied troops is lost, and before ISIL expands its sanctuary — from which it can eventually threaten the United States." The statement did not specify what that assistance should be.
Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, a Democrat challenging McConnell in the November election, said she would not support deploying troops to help. "Ultimately, this fight is up to the people of Iraq," she said, suggesting that the U.S. "should continue to play a supportive role by providing useful intelligence."
U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth of Louisville, the lone Democrat in the Kentucky delegation, supported the Obama administration's caution.
"I agree with the president's firm commitment that there will be no more American troops on the ground in Iraq, Yarmuth said. "Any further assistance we provide must be limited in scope and directed at turning back the immediate threat. The American people have already sacrificed so much."
Matt Young: Twitter: @mattyoungnow