As president, Rick Perry “would send troops back into Iraq,” the Texas governor declared during Saturday’s ABC/Yahoo GOP presidential debate.
Blasting President Obama for withdrawing American troops from the country, Perry said the decision has made Iraq vulnerable to infiltration from Iran.
“I think the idea that we allow the Iranians to come back into Iraq and take over that country, with all of the treasure, both in blood and money, that we have spent in Iraq because this president wants to kowtow to his liberal, leftist base and move out those men and women – he could have renegotiated that timeline,” Perry said. “I think it is a huge mistake.”
It was a bold statement from a candidate who is struggling to gain his footing in the upcoming primary states of New Hampshire and South Carolina – a state with heavy interest in defense policy – after placing second-to-last among the remaining GOP contenders in the Iowa caucuses earlier this week.
It was also a risk. An ORC/CNN poll from December, when U.S. troops left Iraq, found that Americans overwhelmingly support the withdrawal, 78% to 21%. Sixty percent of Republicans and 78% of independents approved of the decision.
A majority of all respondents, 51%, said the decision to send troops into Iraq was “dumb,” and 57% said they believed the Bush administration had deliberately misled the American people about whether Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.
“We’re going to see Iran, in my opinion, move back in at literally the speed of light,” Perry said. “They’re going to move back in and all the work that we’ve done, every young man that has lost his life in that country, will have been for nothing because we’ve got a president that does not understand what’s going on in that region.”