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Rand Paul tells Jewish leaders that ousting Saddam Hussein 'was a mistake'

On Monday, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) met with about 30 Orthodox Jewish leaders at the Brooklyn, New York, headquarters of the National Society for Hebrew Day Schools, and he raised some eyebrows with his thoughts on foreign policy. He criticized the decision by George W. Bush to invade Iraq, arguing that Iran has become more powerful without Saddam Hussein, and declared President Obama's toppling of Moammar Gadhafi an "utter disaster," The New York Times reports.

"It was a mistake to topple Hussein," Paul told the largely Democratic gathering, adding that along with strengthening Iran, "each time we topple a secular dictator, I think we wind up with chaos, and radical Islam seems to rise." He insisted he is "not an isolationist," and gave partial backing to Obama's nuclear deal with Iran: "The interim agreement that we are under now, while not perfect, is better than no agreement and no inspections."

Paul's meeting with the Jewish leaders was generally positive, even very positive, but not everybody was impressed. "Clearly Sen. Paul does not pander," Michael Fragin, a Republican radio host, tells The Times. "Telling this audience that the Middle East was better off with Saddam Hussein and Moammar Gadhafi in power shocked me. It was a rambling and incoherent expression of foreign policy that puts him closer to Bernie Sanders than anyone in the GOP."