U.S. Presidential Candidates on Foreign Policy in the Middle East

Note: Euphrates is a non-partisan organization that does not seek to promote the views of any one candidate or party. Regardless of your level of engagement with the upcoming U.S. presidential elections, its coverage on the news, social media, and in everyday conversation make it impossible to ignore. Given its position as a key player on the world stage, the future leader of the U.S. matters, not only to American citizens, but to spectators in the international community as well. The role comes with the immense responsibility of representing the interests of this politically powerful country, on everything from the economy to climate change.With five candidates left in the race as it narrows in on front-runners for the Democratic and Republican parties, anticipation grows concerning the outcome of the final vote in November. In the 2016 campaign, American voters have repeatedly ranked national security and foreign policy high on their list of the most pressing issues. Middle Eastern issues, in particular, remain a top priority yet they are fraught with complexity and are so often misconstrued. As a recent Foreign Policy article aptly remarked, “the region is the part of the world both most talked about and least understood.”Where do these politicians stand on how to deal with the Islamic State and Syrian refugees, the multinational nuclear agreement with Iran, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? Whoever becomes president will have a significant impact on U.S. relations with other countries and how the U.S. is perceived from abroad. If you’re curious about each candidate’s position on foreign policy in the Middle East, you’ll find a brief overview with links to further reading materials below.Donald Trump (R)Easily the candidate who has attracted the most attention for his provocative statements, Trump appeals to many who are not content with the status quo. Trump advocates robust security measures including increased surveillance of U.S. Muslims and the use of “advanced interrogation techniques,” such as waterboarding, to “enhance the protection and safety of the nation.” He wants to deploy U.S. troops to intensify the military offensive against ISIS and to prevent terrorists from using the Internet as a recruiting tool. Shortly following the mass shooting in San Bernardino in December, he issued a press release, “calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country's representatives can figure out what is going on.” While he strongly opposes the nuclear deal with Iran, he claimed to be the “neutral guy” with regard to Israel and Palestine but later backed away from that statement.Hillary Clinton (D)Clinton is regarded as having the greatest foreign policy knowledge, based on her experience serving as the U.S. Secretary of State. She has outlined a multi-faceted plan to defeat ISIS involving both military and diplomatic methods. Her approach involves increasing intelligence and airstrikes on ISIS, and creating a no-fly zone over Syria as a sanctuary for Syrians being bombed by Assad and his allies. When it comes to national security, she advises that U.S. government agencies work to shut down the online propaganda of terrorist groups. She wants to heighten the screening process for visa applications while accepting more Syrian refugees into the country. Rather than deploying U.S. troops to fight ISIS, Clinton suggests that they send special forces to help train Iraqi and Syrian rebels. She is supportive of the multinational agreement with Iran, but is also willing to reintroduce sanctions if they violate the terms. Clinton has pledged to support Israel militarily and is an advocate of the two-state solution.Ted Cruz (R)The Texan Senator’s has a strictly conservative campaign, running in direct opposition to the Obama administration’s platform in many cases. He has been critical of the U.S. response in Syria and Iraq, and says that U.S. forces should supply Kurdish forces fighting ISIS with advanced weapons. He was widely condemned for saying that he wants to “carpet bomb” ISIS to find out “if sand can glow in the dark.” Cruz is also against the nuclear deal with Iran, stating that he would re-impose sanctions and arrange for inspections of their nuclear facilities if elected. In alignment with his evangelical Christian values, Cruz supports Israel’s Zionist agenda.Bernie Sanders (D)Vermont Senator, Bernie Sanders, speaks critically of U.S. military involvement in the Middle East, referring to the 2003 invasion of Iraq as “one of the worst foreign policy blunders in the modern history of our country.” He does not want to send U.S. troops overseas, but advocates a collaboration of forces from the region (including Saudi Arabia and Turkey) to defeat ISIS. Unlike Hillary, he does not support a no-fly zone over Syria. Sanders advises the U.S. to step up its response to the refugee crisis, alongside other Middle Eastern and European countries, and has condemned Islamophobia. If elected, he would be the first Jewish President, yet he has attracted widespread support from Muslim and Arab voters, dispelling the stereotype that these groups are anti-Semitic. He supports the current agreement with Iran as a way forward to avoid future conflict. On the Israel and Palestine issue, he calls for the U.S. to have a more “even-handed role” and favors a two-state solution.John Kasich (R)The Governor of Ohio has had a longstanding career in Congress and on the House Armed Services Committee. Kasich supports the deployment of U.S. troops to defeat ISIS, and to help stabilize Syria and Iraq. He is also for a no-fly zone over Syria and sending arms to aid Kurds in the fight against ISIS. He believes the U.S. should hold off on accepting refugees until it has established a better screening process. He disagrees with the Obama administration’s deal with Iran and believes the U.S. should be prepared for them to violate the agreement. Kasich has taken a hard-line approach toward Palestine in his defense of Israel.

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