Rubio: ‘If I Was in Charge’ U.S. Would Have Intervened in Syria Earlier

Fred Lucas | June 17, 2013 | 4:32pm EDT
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Sen. Marco Rubio (R.-Fla.) (AP Photo)

( – Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said if he were president, he would have intervened in Syria much sooner than President Obama did to identify the “reasonable” rebels opposed to the regime of President Basher Assad.

“It behooved us to kind of identify whether there was any elements there within Syria fighting against Assad that we could work with--reasonable people that wouldn’t carry out human rights violations and could be part of building a new Syria. We failed to do that,” Rubio told Jonathan Karl on ABC News’ “This Week.”

“This president failed to do that. So now your options are quite limited. Now the strongest groups fighting against Assad unfortunately are al Qaeda-linked elements. That doesn’t mean that they all are, but … this group has become the best organized, the best armed, the best equipped.”

Obama announced this week that the Assad regime had crossed the “red line” and the U.S. now has conclusive evidence the country used chemical weapons.

“Our options are now really narrower than they were a few months ago, so look I think we should continue to search to see if there are any elements that continue to fight against Assad that are reasonable, that we can work with, that will respect human rights, and hopefully build a new Syria,” Rubio continued.

“I just think it’s a lot tougher now when you’ve got Hezbollah running around and Russia fully arming Syria and Iran fully engaged in this as well. I think that the fact that it’s taken this White House and this president so long to get a clear and concise policy on Syria has left us with the worst possible scenario right now.”

Karl then asked Rubio, considered a likely candidate for the GOP presidential nomination in 2016, “What would President Rubio do right now? Would you commit U.S. forces to a no-fly zone?”

Rubio said if he were in charge, he would have taken action sooner.

“First of all, if I was in charge of this issue, we never would have gotten to this point. We would have identified elements that we could have worked with,” Rubio responded. “We would have made sure those elements, not the al Qaeda elements, were the best armed, best equipped and best trained.

“That being said, I think we need to continue to search for elements on the ground that we can work with, and we should try to do the best we can to increase their viability and their strength, so that if and when Assad falls – and we hope that he still will – they’ll be on the ones on the ground with the best ability to kind of manage a future, hopefully, democratic Syria,” he added.

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