Sen. Ron Johnson discusses U.S. foreign policy in Turkey, Middle - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Sen. Ron Johnson discusses U.S. foreign policy in Turkey, Middle East in exclusive interview with 27 News

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 MADISON (WKOW) – Republican Sen. Ron Johnson discussed U.S. foreign policy and unrest throughout the Middle East in an exclusive interview with 27 News on Thursday.

Johnson, who was in Madison visiting JX Enterprises, said the U.S. should step up its efforts to eliminate the Islamic State terrorist group in the Syria and Iraq.

The President this month ordered airstrikes against IS targets in Iraq, which Johnson said he supported. A recent report by the United Nations claimed IS has also committed mass atrocities in Syria – including beheadings, crucifixions and the recruitment of young boys to their ranks.

IS is evil, they can't be contained,” Johnson said. “They need to be defeated.”

We need to see, out of this President, a strategy clearly articulating to the U.S. Public how we can, as a world community, defeat (Islamic State).”

The Islamic State group is also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS.

Johnson said he thinks this month's airstrikes have prevented the expansion of ISIS in Iraq. But he said President Barack Obama must now reach out to leaders from the other, world powers to formulate a plan to take on IS.

Johnson said Obama's decision to withdraw troops from Iraq has allowed ISIS to flourish in recent years.

We had 160-thousand American troops in Iraq – that was the surge,” Johnson said. “At the time there were about six or 8-thousand far less equipped, far lesser trained Al Qaeda members there.”

Johnson said IS has now become the successor to Al Qaeda.

Now ISIS is somewhere between 15 and 17-thousand troops,” he said. “They're far more strategic, far better equipped, far more effective in terms of fighters and we've got a little less than 1-thousand fighters (in Iraq).”

But Johnson said ISIS can be defeated without the deployment of more troops.

We do still have Iraqi security forces,” Johnson said. “It's unfortunate (the U.S.) ever bugged out of there. We lost our influence. But I think with U.S. Trainers and a coalition of the willing, we just have to wait and see what strategy the President develops.”

Johnson also said he's concerned about the direction that Turkish President Recepp Tayyip Erdogan is taking the country in.

Erdogan was sworn in as President this week after previously serving as Prime Minister. He's indicated he would like to see the position of the Presidency assume more powers. It's now a largely ceremonial position.

I think what's happening in Turkey is disconcerting,” Johnson said. “They've gone from a very secular government, they've turned more and more toward Islamic type of rule.”

If anything, (Erdogan) is starting to destroy Turkey's democratic institutions there, that really have made Turkey a really good example as a modern, Muslim state that can actually integrate with the rest of the world.”

I'm highly concerned about the turn and the direction that turkey has undertaken and, by the way, Turkey and Qatar are two sponsors of ISIS,” Johnson said.

We've got to maintain maximum diplomatic relations with Turkey and hope to convince them to be far more cooperative with the rest of the world,” he said.

Johnson did not officially call for Erdogan's removal from power. But said his recent actions do not inspire confidence.

Right now the signs aren't good,” Johnson said. “You have to take a look at the reality of the situation and, right now, Erdogan's actions are not convincing. They're certainly not comforting.” 
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