Of all the criticisms leveled at White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough Sunday in a tour of the morning shows, one seemed to bug him most — Sen. Ted Cruz’s (R-Texas) charge that U.S. forces in Syria would be aiding al-Qaida.
Cruz told the conservative website The Blaze last week that the U.S. shouldn’t get involved in Syria because it doesn’t “have a dog in the fight,” and it risks helping rebel forces aligned with terrorist groups.
“We should be focused on defending the United States of America,” Cruz said. “That’s why young men and women sign up to join the military — not to, as you know, serve as Al Qaeda’s air force.”
It was a suggestion to which McDonough took umbrage when asked by ABC’s George Stephanopoulos.
“I am outraged for somebody to suggest that our people would be serving as allies to al-Qaida, one,” McDonough said on ABC’s “This Week.”
“Two, on this question about what this is and what this isn’t. What this is, George, is very clear. Targeted, consequential, limited attack against Assad forces and Assad capabilities so that he is deterred from carrying out these actions again.
“Here is what it is not. It is not boots on the ground. It is not an extended air campaign. It is not Iraq, Afghanistan or Libya. This is a very concerned, concentrated, limited effort that we can carry out and that can underscore and secure our interests.”
Cruz, who subsequently appeared on ABC, shot back at McDonough’s dismissal.
“Just because Assad is a murderous tyrant doesn’t mean his opponents are any better. In June, the intelligence showed that of the nine major rebel forces in Syria, at least seven, appear to have significant ties to al-Qaida,” Cruz said.
Still, according to experts, the notion that most Syrian rebel groups are tied to al-Qaida is mostly a myth. Experts say that rebel groups with ties to al-Qaida make up about 10% to 20% of the country’s rebel forces fighting Assad.
McDonough also appeared on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” “Fox News Sunday,” CBS’ “Face the Nation,” and CNN’s “State of the Union” — where he faced repeated questions about the chances of Congressional authorization of limited military force in Syria.
Here’s the clip of McDonough on ABC:
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