Where They Stand: Presidential Candidates’ Views on the Middle East
By Luis Sánchez
Photographs of Hillary Clinton and Rand Paul Courtesy of CBS News
As of now four candidates have announced they are running for president of the United States. Ted Cruz, Rand Paul and Marco Rubio have announced for the Republican party while Hillary Clinton seeks nomination for the Democratic Party. While there are many issues that the candidates will contest over in the coming months, their views on how to handle America’s policy in the Middle East is one that voters have paid close attention to in recent times. Here is a breakdown on what the four candidates have said and how they’ve acted in regards to the Middle East:
Clinton defended Israel’s operations in Gaza last summer saying, “I think Israel did what it had to do to respond to the rockets. Israel has a right to defend itself. The steps Hamas has taken to embed rockets and command-and-control facilities and tunnel entrances in civilian areas, this makes a response by Israel difficult.” But that is not to say that she is all in for Israel. In her book “Hard Choices” she describes the Palestinians as an occupied people writing: “When we left the city and visited Jericho, in the West Bank, I got my first glimpse of life under occupation for Palestinians, who were denied the dignity and self-determination that Americans take for granted.”
Like presidents before her, she is opposed to Israel’s occupation of the West Bank. In 2002, as a senator, she voted in favor of the Iraq war, as did most of her party.
Clinton holds a similar outlook in the Middle East to President Obama. Yet she is a bit more interventionist while maintaining caution. As Secretary of State, she favored giving substantial aid to Syrian rebels when the civil war broke out and blames ISIS’s take over of the area to our failure to help out the fighters. Nonetheless she opposes sending ground troops to fight ISIS.
Concerning Iran, Clinton favors the nuclear negotiations and was critical of the 47 Republican Senators that sent Iran a warning letter going against President Obama’s nuclear deal.
Like Hillary Clinton and most of his party, Rubio is more of an interventionist than President Obama. He was in favor of the US giving more help to the Syrian rebels, telling the Wall Street Journal, “”diplomacy doesn’t stand a chance in Syria unless the military balance tips against Assad.” At a foreign policy address at the Brookings Institute he talked of his vision for a post-war order led by the US where the US was engaged with the world.
In the same Brookings Address, Rubio talked in favor of negotiations with Iran as long as they were done cautiously. But on a separate occasion he came out willing to bomb Iran’s nuclear facilities if needed to keep Iran from developing nuclear weapons. Recently, he said that Iranian recognition of Israel’s right to exist should have been part of the recent talks.
Rubio’s view concerning foreign aid is a bit detached from his party’s usual stance. He sees foreign aid as helpful in military and humanitarian issues as well as a way to strengthen the US’s influence and leadership in the world stage.
While Paul has a reputation as an isolationist, at times his record has indicated support for global intervention.
He voted in favor of the Afghanistan war in 2001. In 2013 he wrote for TIME that “War should occur only when America is attacked, when it is threatened or when American interests are attacked or threatened.” Through this reasoning he opposed President Obama’s planned Syrian intervention in 2013. A year later however, he supported the president’s decision to bomb key positions in Syria yet opposed the training of western fighters to take on ISIS and al-Assad’s regime.
He initially opposed American re-entry into Iraq in 2014 when ISIS gained power in the region but ended up supporting an air campaign.
Rand Paul caught heat in the same year when he flip flopped on foreign aid given to Israel. At first he said all foreign aid should be cut, including aid to Israel. He then amended his statement saying that he would like to see all foreign aid cut eventually but in the short term he would continue to give aid to Israel.
He is in favor of diplomatic negotiations with Iran to combat their nuclear pursuits.
He has been a vocal supporter of Israel to the point that he was booed off stage by a conference for Middle East Christians when speaking in support of Israel saying, ““Christians have no greater ally than Israel. Those who hate Israel hate America. Those who hate Jews hate Christians. If those in this room will not recognize that, then my heart weeps for them.”
Cruz puts the blame for the failure of the Israel-Palestine peace talks on Palestine and said that the US should stand by Israel and facilitate negotiations, though the terms of the peace deal should come from Palestine and Israel.
Cruz has a hawkish approach towards ISIS saying that, “We ought to bomb them back to the Stone Age.” Yet he has little interest in finding a solution to on the ground political problems and should not focus on “impractical contingencies, such as resolving the Syrian civil war, reaching political reconciliation in Iraq or achieving ‘consensus’ in the international community.”