Superstar American rapper Kanye West announced his candidacy for president of the United States on July 4. Much of the celebrity’s foreign policy platform has yet to be determined. However, his lyrics, travels, tweets and wife’s social media indicate possible positions he may take on Iran, Israel, Iraq and Turkey.
“We must now realize the promise of America by trusting God, unifying our vision and building our future,” he said in an Independence Day tweet.
In an interview with Forbes, West said he has yet to formulate his views on foreign policy. “I haven’t developed it yet. I’m focused on protecting America, first, with our great military. Let’s focus on ourselves first,” he said.
However, West's lyrics offer a glimpse into his views on the Middle East. In the synthesizer-heavy remix of his 2010 banger “Power,” West criticized the US military presence in Iraq and a possible US war with Iran.
“Bring our troops back from Iraq, keep our troops out of Iran,” said West in the song. He also makes an appeal to Muslims in the tune by using the Arabic-language religious greeting “salam alaikum."
The United States withdrew its troops from Iraq in 2011, but they returned in 2014 to aid in Iraq's fight against the Islamic State; around 5,000 US troops remain there.
US tensions with Iran are arguably much higher now than they were at the time of the song. The Trump administration removed the United States from the Iran nuclear deal in 2018 and then placed harsh sanctions on the Islamic Republic. There have been a series of tense incidents between the two countries in the Persian Gulf this year.
In 2018, West tweeted “we have love” in Persian. He did not offer an explanation for the tweet. And his 2016 song “Feedback” samples music from Iranian pop icon Googoosh’s song “Talagh.”
In 2015, West and his celebrity wife, Kim Kardashian, visited Israel. The boycott, divestment sanctions (BDS) movement criticized West for the visit. BDS supports a variety of boycotts, including cultural ones, against Israel due to its treatment of Palestinians.
Kardashian, an American of Armenian heritage, often comments on Armenian causes as they relate to Turkey. She has tweeted in support of recognizing the Armenian genocide several times.
The Armenian genocide was the forced expulsion or murder of Armenians in Turkey at the end of the Ottoman Empire’s reign. It coincided with similar actions against Greeks, Syriacs and Assyrians in the country. Turkey adamantly denies the events constitute genocide.
Kardashian’s comments are controversial in Turkey. She also received criticism from some in the Armenian-American community last year due to her products being sold in Turkey. In March, she was slammed by some in Turkey for calling the Middle Eastern bread dish lahmacun “Armenian pizza.”
West himself does not appear to have addressed Turkey in his music or statements.
West has praised US President Donald Trump, and met with him in the Oval Office in 2018. West told Forbes that he does not support the president now.
West’s announcement came relatively late in the lengthy US election cycle, but he can still appear on the ballot in most states.