How the Iowa Caucuses May Change the Middle East

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Middle East watchers should be examining the Democratic presidential campaigns in Iowa more carefully. From Des Moines to Sioux City the candidates are criss-crossing the state making extemporaneous statements about Israel, Palestine, Iraq and all things Middle Eastern.

Their statements serve as important clues to future Democratic foreign policy in the Middle East -- far more than a concensus-driven Democratic Convention platform.

Putting aside the prefacing crescendo of criticism over Bush Administration foreign policy fiascos too numerous to mention most Democrats have waxed frequently on Iraq and Iran. But they have yet to formulate any strategic vision of a post Iraq surge Middle East. Nevertheless, here are some tidbits gathered from speeches, interviews and just plain voter exchanges that Democrats have espoused:

-- Called for talks with Iran and Syria
-- Supported a democratic government in Lebanon, with American miliitary back up
-- Expressed renewed determination to hunt down Bin Laden and Al Qaeda in the ME
-- Urged the transfer of US troops from the Middle East to Afghanistan
-- Criticized Saudi Arabia for its intolerance and continued support of extremism
-- Called for an accelerated energy independence policy
-- Lamented the failure of Arab leadership to change their societies
-- Urged US support for any Israeli military action against Iran's nuclear installations
-- Expressed understanding if Israel were to invade Gaza to wipe out Hamas
-- Called on NATO to expand its presence in the Middle East
-- Recommended a partnership with Russia to jointly inspect Iran's nuclear facilities

The most self assured and expansive candidate on Middle East issues not surprisingly has been U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Joe Biden (who also would be one of the leading candidates for Secretary of State in a Democratic administration). What is not surprising is that other candidates have taken many of their cues from Senator Joe, both in debates and on the campaign trail. Whether or not Sen. Biden survives the early primary contests, his Middle East proposals will surely serve as pillars for other candidates in the race.

Biden's website is a treasure trove of Middle East policy puzzle pieces.

For Middle East aficionados it may be the missing yellow brick road to a Democratic Middle East foreign policy.
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