IOWA CAUCUS 2020

Countdown to caucuses: Iran tension pushes foreign policy into forefront of Democratic primary race

The main weekly Islamic Friday prayers Jan. 17 in Tehran, Iran. The spike in tensions between Iran and the United States
The main weekly Islamic Friday prayers Jan. 17 in Tehran, Iran. The spike in tensions between Iran and the United States earlier this month pushed foreign policy into the forefront of issues in the 2020 Democratic primary. (SalamPix/Abaca Press/TNS)

Foreign policy was not one of the most pressing issues on the minds of Iowa Democrats throughout most of the past year.

Then Republican President Donald Trump ordered a military strike that killed Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani, who the administration has said was planning attacks on U.S. interests abroad. Days later, Iran responded with missile strikes on military bases in Iraq that housed U.S. troops. No U.S. troops were killed in the response.

Suddenly, foreign policy became a tangible topic on the caucus campaign trail.

Many of the Democratic candidates said they welcomed the death of Soleimani, but questioned whether the administration had a big-picture plan to keep American interests safe and avoid a protracted military conflict.

Joe Biden, the former vice president, has stressed his foreign affairs experience in pitching to Iowa Democrats that he is the most qualified candidate to command the national stage.

But other candidates are not ceding the foreign policy stage to the former vice president. Bernie Sanders frequently notes his vote against the Iraq War — and Biden’s support for it. And Pete Buttigieg leans on his military experience as an intelligence officer in the U.S. Navy Reserve.

Most of the candidates have expressed support for reducing if not withdrawing entirely U.S. troops in Middle East countries like Iraq and Afghanistan. That question — and a timeline on any withdrawal — is common on the campaign trail from war-weary Democrats.

Some of the Democratic candidates also talk about a need to restore relationships with foreign allies. They say Trump has frayed some of those relationships.

ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT

Many of the candidates also have expressed support for overhauling post-9/11 legislation that gave the president broader authority to approve military action without Congressional consent. Many Democrats have said that authority should be limited, and power to authorize war should be restored to Congress.

Joe Biden

• Re-enter the United States into the Iran nuclear deal.

• Work toward denuclearizing North Korea.

• Elevate diplomacy by rebuilding the U.S. State Department.

• End the travel ban on seven majority-Muslim countries.

• Strengthen alliances with Japan, South Korea, Australia and other Asian democracies.

• Rebuild NATO partnerships.

• End wars in the Middle East and withdraw a majority of American troops.

• End U.S. support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen.

• Pursue an extension of the START Treaty between the United States and Russia.

• Reaffirm the ban on torture and restore transparency in military operations.

Pete Buttigieg

• “End the endless war” in Afghanistan through negotiated peace agreement.

• End military support for the Saudi-led campaign in Yemen.

• Supports two-state solution between Israel and Palestine.

• Views climate change as “existential crisis” that must involve diplomacy.

Amy Klobuchar

• Strengthen sanctions against Russia.

• Renew commitments to the United Nations and NATO.

• Rebuild and fully fund the State Department.

• Rebuild a relationship with Cuba that leads to lifting the trade embargo.

• Strengthen relationships with Japan, South Korea and Asian Pacific countries.

• Support negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians that leads to a two-state solution.

• Rejoin the Iran nuclear agreement.

• Extend the START nuclear arms reduction treaty.

• End the war in Afghanistan and bring troops home within four years.

Bernie Sanders

• Implement a foreign policy that focuses on human rights, economic fairness and democracy.

• Re-enter the United States in the Iran nuclear agreement.

• Allow Congress to assert its constitutional authority in decisions of war.

• Withdraw American troops from Afghanistan and end the war.

• Withdraw U.S. support for the Saudi-led intervention in Yemen.

• Reconsider U.S. aid for Israel, making it contingent on Israel having a peaceful relationship with Palestinians.

Elizabeth Warren

• Reduce military spending about 11 percent

• Would bring home troops “immediately” from Afghanistan.

• Supports two-state solution between Israel and Palestine. Opposed to Israeli settlement in West Bank.

• Double the size of the U.S. Foreign Service, opening new posts in “underserved areas.”

• Ban big defense contractors from hiring upper officials from the Pentagon.

• Would make contractors identify employees who are former Pentagon officials.

• Ban senior Department of Defense officials from owning stock.

LATEST RESULTS: Delegate counts, and first and final alignments

Give us feedback

We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.

Give us feedback

We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.