January 14th, 2016
06:45 PM ET

Paul on Iran: "I still wonder whether or not they are wanting to be part of the civilized world."

Wolf Blitzer

CNN's Wolf Blitzer sits down with Senator and Republican Presidential candidate Rand Paul (R-KY), to discuss the threat of ISIS and the arrest and release of American military personnel by Iran. Please see below for a full rushed transcript.

 

MANDATORY CREDIT // The Situation Room

Additional information: The Situation Room: http://www.cnn.com/shows/situation-room

 

Text highlights:

 

Sen. Paul on Islam’s role in combatting extremism: “I think it shows that the answer ultimately is going to have to be cooperation and help from civilized Islam.  I think civilized Islam needs to step forward everywhere and condemn these types of attacks louder and stronger than we've been hearing. I think in recent history actually some countries like Saudi Arabia have actually funded religious radicalism that has led to violence.  So I think Saudi Arabia and other Gulf kingdoms really need to step it up and say, we don't support terrorism, we are no longer going to fund religious schools that preach this kind of hatred for the West… I can't stress enough that civilized Islam has to step up and begin to more forcefully condemn in their mosques throughout the world and say that jihad is not acceptable - violent jihad is not acceptable.”

 

Sen. Paul on why he believes extremists commit acts of terror: “Well, they're not going to come here with armies.  And terrorists actually commit terror because they are weak.  So I believe ISIS to be very, very weak.  They have a little bit of military strength where they are. But even where they are, think about it, they have 30,000 fighters surrounded by 190,000 Peshmerga in the Kurdish region, 190,000 Baghdad army to their west - or to their east.  We have a 600,000 Turkish army, a couple hundred thousand in Jordan, half a million to a million in Israel. So they are surrounded.  We just need to coordinate our strategy to wipe them out.  But even when they're wiped out the ideology of radical Islam is going to have to be combated for generations.”

 

Sen. Paul on Iran’s treatment of American military personnel: [BLITZER]: “You have a problem, Senator, with the way the Iranians treated these American sailors?”

[PAUL]: “You know, I sure do.  And it's one of the reasons why I opposed the Iranian agreement initially, is that I still wonder whether or not they are wanting to be part of the civilized world. Now I'm glad that it ended peacefully, but you still wonder about a nation that is using, it appears, video of our soldiers as pawns in a propaganda war.  Now, I do agree that having it end peacefully was a great outcome, and maybe that's a sign that Iran is changing their ways. But the fact that they lined them up and used them as propaganda objects concerns me that Iran really hasn't quit her old ways.  And that's what's going to happen.  But it means all more important that the Iranian agreement that we watch them like a hawk to make sure that they actually are adhering to the agreement as it goes forward.”

 

FULL TRANSCRIPT:

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

 

WOLF BLITZER, CNN LEAD POLITICAL ANCHOR AND HOST OF THE SITUATION ROOM: Let's get some more on all of this.  Joining us, Republican presidential candidate and Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky.  He's a member of the Homeland Security and Foreign Relations committees.

 

Senator, thanks very much for joining us.  I want to get to Jim's report about Iran's behavior with those American sailors in a moment.  But first, the attack - the terror attack in Jakarta.

 

In targeting areas like Starbucks, very popular tourist destination, is this seen as an attack literally against the United States and the West?

 

SEN. RAND PAUL (R-KY), GOP PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Well, you know, I think it shows the enormity of the problem.  That this is not an isolated area, that ISIS is not confined to one area of the globe, but really that it's not just ISIS, that I think it's a radical ideology.

 

But also I think it shows that the answer ultimately is going to have to be cooperation and help from civilized Islam.  I think civilized Islam needs to step forward everywhere and condemn these types of attacks louder and stronger than we've been hearing.

 

I think in recent history actually some countries like Saudi Arabia have actually funded religious radicalism that has led to violence.  So I think Saudi Arabia and other Gulf kingdoms really need to step it up and say, we don't support terrorism, we are no longer going to fund religious schools that preach this kind of hatred for the West.

 

But it's a big problem.  And it's not going away any time soon.  But it's also why I've said there has to be a little bit more scrutiny or significantly more scrutiny on those who travel here from a variety of countries that have significant Islamic terror problems.

 

BLITZER:  ISIS has claimed responsibility for this attack in Jakarta, and maybe one of their intended terror consequences did occur.  Starbucks has at least temporarily shuttered its coffee shops in Indonesia right now.

 

How do you fight against ISIS right now?  Will this be a generational war?

 

PAUL:  Well, it is an ideology.  I mean, I think the ideology, in order to defeat the ideology, a lot of it has to come from their co-religionists.  We have to defend ourselves by all means necessarily.

 

Militarily can we stamp out ISIS and will it happen?  Yes.  But ultimately to have a lasting victory, I've been saying for some time that the lasting victory needs to involve civilized Islam, Arab boots on the ground.

 

And they are going to have to be - if you're going to take over cities like Raqqah and cities like Tikrit, the people actually doing the fighting, and the new mayor of Tikrit, the new garrison has to be Sunni Muslims who live there.

 

And until that happens, they're going to see all other victories, and we can have those victories, but they'll see them as temporary.  If it's American soldiers garrisoned in Tikrit, another generation will slither forward and put bombs underneath our Humvees.

 

So really we can help, we protect ourselves.  But absolutely we need to help those who live there who have to be the fighters.

 

BLITZER:  In his State of the Union Address, President Obama said the fight against ISIS doesn't pose what he called an existential threat to the United States.  Do you agree with him?

 

PAUL:  Well, they're not going to come here with armies.  And terrorists actually commit terror because they are weak.  So I believe ISIS to be very, very weak.  They have a little bit of military strength where they are.

 

But even where they are, think about it, they have 30,000 fighters surrounded by 190,000 Peshmerga in the Kurdish region, 190,000 Baghdad army to their west - or to their east.  We have a 600,000 Turkish army, a couple hundred thousand in Jordan, half a million to a million in Israel.

 

So they are surrounded.  We just need to coordinate our strategy to wipe them out.  But even when they're wiped out the ideology of radical Islam is going to have to be combated for generations.  But it needs to come from within Islam.

 

I can't stress enough that civilized Islam has to step up and begin to more forcefully condemn in their mosques throughout the world and say that jihad is not acceptable - violent jihad is not acceptable.

 

BLITZER:  We heard a similar statement from King Abdullah II of Jordan yesterday when he was here with me in THE SITUATION ROOM.  Jordan obviously a very close friend of the United States.

 

Senator, we have a lot more to talk about, including those 10 American sailors who were forced to put their hands over their heads, get down on their knees.  One of them maybe was forced to apologize.  We'll discuss that and more when we come back.

 

BLITZER:  Disturbing images sparking growing outrage at Iran tonight for broadcasting video of 10 American sailors detained after their boats drifted into Iranian waters.  The video included one of the sailors making what may have been a coerced apology.

 

We're back with the Republican presidential candidate and Kentucky senator, Rand Paul.  He's a member of the Homeland Security and Foreign Relations committees.

 

You have a problem, Senator, with the way the Iranians treated these American sailors?

 

PAUL:  You know, I sure do.  And it's one of the reasons why I opposed the Iranian agreement initially, is that I still wonder whether or not they are wanting to be part of the civilized world.

 

Now I'm glad that it ended peacefully, but you still wonder about a nation that is using, it appears, video of our soldiers as pawns in a propaganda war.  Now, I do agree that having it end peacefully was a great outcome, and maybe that's a sign that Iran is changing their ways.

 

But the fact that they lined them up and used them as propaganda objects concerns me that Iran really hasn't quit her old ways.  And that's what's going to happen.  But it means all more important that the Iranian agreement that we watch them like a hawk to make sure that they actually are adhering to the agreement as it goes forward.

 

BLITZER:  If the situation had been reversed, Iranian sailors were caught in U.S. waters, how would the U.S. have treated those Iranian sailors?

 

PAUL:  You know, I think there's a very good chance that someone in our waters with a military boat would have been picked up, would have been stopped, would have been detained, but I don't think the United States has ever sort of broadcast propaganda photos of them.  And I don't think we would.

 

So that's what concerns me more is the propaganda action here as opposed to picking up our soldiers, releasing them in 24 hours.  In some ways there is a success, and it does mean that we have better cooperation, better channels of communication open.  So all of that's good.

 

But it does concern me and frankly perturbs me that they would use our soldiers as sort of pawns in some sort of propaganda war.

 

BLITZER:  And you opposed the Iran nuclear deal, but as you know in a few days, maybe as soon as this weekend, Iran will be flush with cash as a result of the deal that was brokered in part by the United States.

 

They're going to get billions of dollars.  The national security adviser to the president, Susan Rice, told me not that long ago the Iranians can do with that money what they want.  And there's concern they could use that money for terrorist purposes.

 

How concerned are you?  And can the U.S. do anything about that?

 

PAUL:  You know, this is one of the reasons why I opposed the deal.  What I would have done if I had - had I been negotiating this is that I would have released the sanctions much slower over a several-year period and the same with the money, because I think that they are complying.

 

In fact, returning our soldiers may well have been some compliance trying to get the money.  But once they have their hands on the money, the question is, are they going to continue to act in a civilized fashion?

 

So I would have released the money much slower.  And I would have also released the sanctions over a several-year period as we saw compliance from Iran.

 

But I do separate myself from many other Republicans in that I do hope that negotiation works, that really ultimately negotiations are probably the only way we do get rid of the Iranian nuclear program.

 

But we're going to have to watch them like a hawk.  We're going to have to have great verification to see that they're actually doing what they have promised to do.

 

BLITZER:  Senator Paul, thanks very much for joining us.

 

PAUL:  Thank you.

 

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