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Sen. Rand Paul, Sen. Bob Menendez Face Off Over Syria On "Crossfire" Debut

PAUL: Here's the problem -- here's the problem for the American people. I don't think anybody doubts that Assad is probably a war criminal. He's done these horrific things to civilians.

But on the other side we've sees priests beheaded by the Islamic rebels on the other side. We've also seen an Islamic rebel eating the heart of a soldier. So it's not like there's no atrocity going on on the other side, and al Qaeda is on the other side. I can't conceive how we would go in and be allies with al Qaeda.

CUTTER: Well, let's...

MENENDEZ: I don't -- I don't suggest that we're going to be allies with al Qaeda. There are vetted elements of the Syrian opposition that we believe that are largely...

PAUL: They're our allies...

CUTTER: No, they're not allies.

MENENDEZ: ... which largely share our values. And at the end of the day, if you just sit back and say, "You know what? There's no consequences to the use of chemical weapons. Go kill another 1,400, go kill another 14,000," at what point does the consequences of those actions not only send a message in Syria, but globally?

We want the ayatollah in Iran to heed our message: Do not cross that line towards chemical -- towards, excuse me, towards nuclear weapons. We want the dictator of North Korea to understand, do not cross a line, as well. This is, I think, even beyond Assad. And if we can get the United Nations quickly to go ahead and intervene and actually obtain all of these chemical weapons, secure them and destroy them, then I think we would have made a very good statement.

GINGRICH: But there's a real distinction between whatever happens in terms of the chemical weapons and the Syrian civil war. And all the evidence we're getting is that the country by enormous numbers, something like 85 percent, is deeply opposed to the United States picking sides in the Syrian civil war, partly because, as Senator Paul said, there's this deep feeling that there's the bad guys and the bad guys.

MENENDEZ: That's exactly -- that's exactly why working with Senator Corker, the ranking Republican on the committee, and getting a universe that went from John McCain, who's very hawkish on these issues, to Dick Durbin, who's very dovish on them, generally speaking, on those issues, to find the balance, and what did we say? No American troops on the ground. We don't want to be engaged in that civil war...

PAUL: Unless the chemical weapons break free.

MENENDEZ: And, in fact, to be able to have a time limit in this regard of 60 days, which many would argue the president has under the War Powers Act anyhow, to be able to proceed.

So it seems to me that what we've done here is not get involved. No one wants to get involved in Syria's civil war, but we may very well have stopped a slaughter and sent an international message on the consequences...

CUTTER: I agree. Senator Paul, I want to go back to...

PAUL: The big exception -- the big exception to ground troops, that Secretary Kerry admitted was, if the chemical weapons were to come free and needed to be secured, we would need 75,000 troops to secure the weapons. That would be troops, boots on the ground. And the question is, is it more likely for that to happen if we destabilize Assad or less likely? I think more likely if the Obama...

(CROSSTALK)

CUTTER: I would like to talk about...

MENENDEZ: At the committee hearing, I must say, at the committee hearing when he was pressed on this issue, starting with me and then Bob Corker, he said, "Look, let's close that door. No American troops on the ground."

And I think the world understands that if chemical weapons caches are open and subjected to the possibility of terrorists getting them, that they would hopefully be an international effort to secure those chemical weapons so they come go against us, our troops, our interests, and...

CUTTER: I think that we would.

PAUL: The question is, is it more likely or less likely? If we destabilize Assad, is it more likely the chemical weapons will become free roaming and terrorists might get them or less likely? I think it's more likely, if we destabilize Assad, that the chemical weapons may fall into the hands of al Qaeda.

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