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Hillary Clinton's Middle East Policy

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In General:

Hillary Rodham Clinton has the reputation of a foreign policy hawk. That’s true regarding the Middle East. She originally and unquestioningly supported the Bush administration’s wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and every supplemental military appropriation for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan even though she called on Congress, in 2007, to repeal the 2002 Iraq War authorization. She would support attacking Iran if Iran developed nuclear weapons. She is staunchly pro-Israel. Nevertheless, Clinton’s foreign policy would favor diplomacy, multilateralism and working through international institutions like the United Nations.

On Iraq:

Clinton supported the Iraq War authorization in 2002, only to regret it five years later as her campaign for the presidency got under way. If elected, she would “convene the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the secretary of defense, and the National Security Council and direct them to draw up a clear, viable plan to bring our troops home, starting within the first 60 days of my administration.” She would negotiate with all countries bordering Iraq, including Syria and Iran, to explore peaceful solutions for the region. She would fund Iraqi forces “only to the extent that such training is actually working.”

On Iran:

In some regards, Clinton is more of a hawk on Iran than the Bush administration. She voted with 75 senators to declare the Iranian Revolutionary Guard (a segment of the Iranian military) a terrorist organization-—further than even Bush went. She would oppose a nuclear Iran and criticized Barack Obama for ruling out the use of nuclear weapons in a confrontation with Iran. “If Iran does not comply with its own commitments and the will of the international community,” Clinton wrote in Foreign Affairs, referring to Iran’s obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, “all options must remain on the table.”

On Israel and Palestine:

Clinton is taking an almost exclusively pro-Israel stance. She favored Israel’s war on Lebanon and Hezbollah in July-August 2006, she supports the separation wall Israel is building in the West Bank, and she has not spoken against Israel’s expanding settlements in the Occupied Territories. She does favor a two-state solution and an independent Palestine and considers the Bush administration’s disengagement from the Palestinian-Israeli peace process a mistake. But she offers no specifics about bringing Israelis and Palestinians to a new understanding.

On Terrorism:

Clinton states that “[w]e cannot negotiate with individual terrorists; they must be hunted down and captured or killed.” Note, however, the distinction. She refers to individual terrorists, not state sponsors of terrorism, like Iran, whom she considers, in her words, “the country that most practices terrorism,” but with whom she would negotiate. She would leave special forces in Iraq to combat terrorism. She considers Afghanistan, not Iraq, the central front in the campaign against terror. She would continue to consider Pakistan an ally in the campaign, and even “redouble” financial and military ties with that country.

On Turkey:

Clinton is pro-Turkey. What that means is that while she would favor keeping American forces in Iraq’s Kurdish region to protect its stability, she would not put Kurdish independence there ahead of Turkish interests. Turkey opposes Kurdish independence. But Clinton co-sponsored a measure in the Senate that calls on the president to use the word genocide when discussing “the systematic and deliberate annihilation of 1.5 million Armenians” by Ottoman Turks around 1915. Turkey vehemently opposes references to the killing of Armenians as genocide, and threatened retaliations should such a resolution pass.

On Foreign Oil:

Clinton wants to reduce American dependence on foreign oil by investing $150 billion over 10 years in “a new energy future,” through a so-called Strategic Energy Fund paid for in part by American oil companies. She favors increasing fuel efficiency standards to 55 miles per gallon by 2030. She wants renewable energy to generate 25 percent of America’s electricity by 2025 (although most of the country’s electricity generation is produced by coal, natural gas and nuclear energy, not oil). She wants 60 billion gallons of home-grown biofuels available for cars and trucks by 2030.

In Sum:

Hillary Rodham Clinton’s foreign policy attempts to play both sides of many issues. When she was elected to the Senate from New York in 2000, she was perceived as a liberal. She’s worked hard to counter that perception—so hard that she’s now regarded as one of the Senate’s most hawkish Democrats. Clinton, however, does not want to appear too hawkish. Only tough. She mixes iron-fisted rhetoric on the campaign on terror and against Iranian nuclear armament with a commitment to multilateral, multinational diplomacy and respect for international institutions such as the United Nations, and allies such as the European Union.

And she speaks unashamedly of making human rights part of her foreign policy platform—a stance most commonly associated with Jimmy Carter. For example, she wants to focus on the plight of 4 million Iraqi refuges. In her words: “We have undercut international support for fighting terrorism by suggesting that the job cannot be done without humiliation, infringements on basic rights to privacy and free speech, and even torture. We must once again make human rights a centerpiece of U.S. foreign policy and a core element of our conception of democracy.”

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