Election 2020: Where the candidates stand on the Middle East
All candidates except Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., raise their hands while responding to a question that they would currently support the original Iran nuclear agreement during the first 2020 Democratic debate in Miami, Florida, June 26, 2019 (photo by Reuters/Mike Segar)
Welcome to Al-Monitor’s overview of the 2020 presidential election. Here you’ll find everything you need about the Middle East positions and foreign policy advisers of all the candidates who have qualified for the seventh Democratic primary debate. Click on the candidates below to view their voting history, policy positions and more.
Check out the latest primary polling from Real Clear Politics here.
Democratic candidates to address Israeli military aid at J Street conference
Five Democratic candidates with widely divergent views on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will address J Street’s annual conference next week. The conference comes as an increasing number of Democratic frontrunners have called for cutting or conditioning US military aid to Israel over its occupation of the West Bank – a position that J Street has gradually started to favor.
“It’s important to make clear that Israel should not have a blank check to just move forward with its policies to undermine the two-state solution, undermine our interests and values, and push us down a path to permanent occupation,” Logan Bayroff, J Street’s director of communications, told Al-Monitor. “Things like American aid to Israel should be part of that conversation, part of that debate, among presidential candidates. They should be putting forth a clear vision for how they’re going to ensure how Israel is accountable.”
The liberal lobbying group announced last week that Sens. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., Michael Bennet, D-Colo., Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana, and former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julian Castro will address the conference on Sunday, Oct. 27 and Monday, Oct. 28. Sanders, who received a warm reception during his previous two times addressing the conference, has been the most explicit in questioning US assistance to Israel.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., who is competing with Sanders for the progressive base, is not attending the conference. But Warren told a reporter on Saturday that “everything is on the table” when asked if she supports conditioning Israeli military aid on a West Bank settlement freeze. Meanwhile, Buttigieg said in June that US taxpayers “should not foot the bill” if Israel annexes the West Bank.
Buttigieg’s remarks echoed J Street President Jeremy Ben-Ami’s April comments in an interview with the Forward. Ben-Ami he said it “seems to be very fair” for Congress to condition military aid should Israel “implement a decision to annex” the West Bank. And last month J Street distributed a fact sheet to reporters based on a poll from GBAO Strategies, which found that 69% of Democratic primary voters “are less likely to support a candidate” who favors unconditional military aid to Israel.
J Street’s position could put it at odds with some of its guests this weekend who boast warm ties with the rival American Israel Public Affairs Committee. Klobuchar and Bennet have both co-sponsored legislation that would codify $3.8 billion in annual Israeli military aid into law for 10 years. And Vice President Joe Biden pushed the Barack Obama administration to increase Israeli military aid to allay its concerns over the Iran nuclear deal. Biden addressed the J Street conference twice as vice president but will not do so this year.
Updated: Oct. 21, 2019
Eight of the 12 Democrats appearing on the presidential debate stage tonight have spent the past week accusing President Donald Trump of paving the way for Turkey’s offensive against the US-backed Kurds by withdrawing US troops from northeast Syria. But the political optics could prove tricky for those candidates who have previously endorsed withdrawing US troops from Syria.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., for example, has assailed Trump’s decision as “reckless and unplanned.” And fellow progressive Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., called it “extremely irresponsible.” But Warren still maintains that she ultimately supports withdrawing US troops from Syria. Meanwhile Sanders has made a broad pledge to “responsibly end our military interventions in the Middle East.”
Both candidates voted against a nonbinding Senate resolution that passed 70-26 in February warning against a “precipitous withdrawal” from Syria. Sens. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., and Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., also voted against that resolution despite condemning Trump’s decision last week. Sen. Michael Bennett, D-Colo., who did not meet the criteria to participate in tonight’s debate, was the only 2020 candidate in the Senate to vote for the resolution. The only other sitting senator on the ballot, Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., who sits on the Foreign Relations Committee, has stayed quiet on the Syria issue this week (as have fellow debate participants Andrew Yang and former Rep. Beto O’Rourke, D-Texas).
Meanwhile, Vice President Joe Biden issued two lengthy statements condemning Trump for abandoning the Kurds and denouncing the decision to remove US troops the war-torn country – several days before the president actually announced a full withdrawal from northern Syria on Sunday. Biden is well aware of the damage that Washington’s support for Kurdish militants has done to the US-Turkish alliance. Visiting Turkey in the wake of the failed 2016 coup attempt, he threatened to pull US support from the Syrian Democratic Forces unless the Kurds withdrew from Manbij (the US and Turkey eventually established joint patrols in Manbij in the fall of 2018).
Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana, former Housing and Urban Affairs Secretary Julian Castro and billionaire hedge fund manager Tom Steyer also attacked Trump for his handling of the Turkish incursion. The lone outlier was Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, who called on Trump to remove US troops from Syria on Friday, Oct. 11. Two days later, the president announced he was withdrawing all US troops from northern Syria while leaving soldiers at the southern garrison in al-Tanf.
Gabbard is the only candidate who has committed to resuming diplomatic relations with Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad. Sanders and Yang have both told the Washington Post that they’re open to engaging with Assad, while Warren, Booker, O’Rourke and Buttigieg have ruled it out.
A slew of Democratic presidential candidates came out last week in favor of repealing a key military authorization that serves as the legal basis for counterterrorism operations in the Middle East and around the world.
Two frontrunners – Sens. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts – joined 13 other candidates in support of axing the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) in response to a foreign policy survey from polling aggregator FiveThirtyEight.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., called for a repeal of all existing military authorizations in a national security speech last month, joining calls to revisit the 2001 AUMF from South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg and former Rep. John Delaney, D-Md., in June. Businessman Andrew Yang has also previously come out in favor of repealing existing military authorizations on his campaign website.
Following Sept. 11, 2001, Sanders joined the overwhelming majority of lawmakers – including then-Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del. – in voting for the AUMF against al-Qaeda. Eighteen years and three administrations later, the Defense Department continues to use the 2001 authorization to justify military deployments and airstrikes against terrorist groups around the world, including the Islamic State in Syria. Biden did not respond to the FiveThirtyEight survey and has yet to comment on repealing the AUMF.
The fact that a broad spectrum of Democrats running for president now support a repeal indicates that this has largely become a consensus issue within the party. This comes after Democrats attached a provision to repeal the AUMF after eight months as part of a defense spending bill that the House passed 226-203 in June. Despite the push for a new military authorization that gives Congress more oversight, a repeal is likely to run into resistance in the Republican-held Senate.
A large swath of the 2020 Democrats criticized Israel’s Aug. 15 decision to ban Reps. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., and Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., from entering the West Bank. The decision drew pushback from pro-Israel Democrats as well as the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). But Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., who generally aligns with AIPAC, went a step further by criticizing a 2017 Israeli law that prevents boycott supporters such as Tlaib and Omar from entering the country. Meanwhile, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., invoked the ban to double down on his argument that the United States should condition military aid to Israel as political leverage. A few days before the ban, former Rep. John Delaney, D-Md., argued that there” seems to be a bit of an obsession right now criticizing Israel within the Democratic Party.”
Separately, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., pressed President Donald Trump’s inauguration chairman over his role in pushing the White House to strike a nuclear deal with Riyadh. House Democrats have accused Tom Barrack, the CEO of private equity firm Colony Capital, of soliciting Saudi funds in a bid to buy struggling US nuclear reactor firm Westinghouse.
Warren pressed Barrack on the issue in an Aug. 14 letter asking him to clarify whether he’s currently advising Trump on Saudi nuclear negotiations and to provide details on Colony Capital’s involvement with the Saudi Public Investment Fund. Congress first drew attention to Barrack’s role in the Saudi nuclear negotiations when the House Oversight Committee released a report on the issue last month. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have called for a halt to the negotiations over concerns that Riyadh will not accept a deal that precludes it from activities that could lead to a domestic nuclear weapons program.
Former Vice President Joe Biden and South Bend Mayor Peter Buttigieg both called for a reevaluation of US-Saudi relations in a Council on Foreign Relations questionnaire distributed to Democratic presidential candidates released on July 30. Biden vowed to “order a reassessment of our relationship with Saudi Arabia.” Buttigieg also called for a “reset” in the relationship, arguing that the United States should nonetheless continue intelligence-sharing with Riyadh for counterterrorism operations against al-Qaeda in Yemen.
In the same survey, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., accused Riyadh of trying to “drag the US into a conflict with Iran” – a sentiment echoed by author and spiritual adviser Marianne Williamson, who went further by suggesting that Iran could be “a potential ally against Sunni extremism.” Meanwhile, former Rep. John Delaney, D-Md., vowed to ban Saudi officials from the White House and end high-level delegations to the kingdom, while Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, came out in favor of ending US support for the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen after missing a House vote to do so earlier this year.
Ryan and Delaney also walked back the commitment they made during the June debates to reenter the Iran nuclear deal as originally negotiated. Ryan clarified that he would only reenter the accord if it pushes back the expiration of certain restrictions on Iranian activities “even further into the future.” Delaney made a similar commitment. Finally, businessman Andrew Yang also vowed to renegotiate the deal’s sunsetting provisions during the July 31 Democratic debate in Detroit, while New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio argued that “we’re on the march to war in Iran.”
Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., on July 26 became the first presidential candidate to explicitly endorse using US military aid to Israel as leverage to demand better treatment of the Palestinians. He made the commitment during an interview with Pod Save America’s Jon Favreau after first floating the idea during a 2017 interview with The Intercept. South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg came close to directly broaching the topic in June when he vowed that US taxpayers would not foot the bill if Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu moved forward with annexing parts of the West Bank.
During the interview, Sanders also vowed to “sit down in a room” to negotiate with Israeli, Palestinian, Iranian and Saudi leadership and criticized Riyadh’s women’s rights record. Sanders’ approach to Israel offers a sharp contrast with the vision Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., outlined at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs on July 24. Gillibrand, who has co-sponsored an Israeli military aid, vowed to “continue our country’s unbreakable bond with our closest ally in the Middle East.”
The Democratic party’s internal agonizing over Israel was on full display on Capitol Hill last week as the House easily passed a nonbinding resolution condemning the pro-Palestinian BDS movement. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, voted for the resolution. Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, the only other sitting House member to qualify for this month’s debates, missed the vote but did co-sponsor a bill to deepen economic cooperation between Israel, Palestine and the United States.
Gillibrand and Gabbard also expanded on their views regarding the Iran nuclear deal. In an interview with Fox News, Gabbard said the “de-militarization and de-escalation of tensions” between Iran and Saudi Arabia should be a “provision” to reenter the nuclear deal. And Gillibrand also reiterated her support for reentering the accord while condemning Tehran for its “recent escalations and its breach of the nuclear deal.” She also vowed to extend and build upon the accord “for a longer period of time” while addressing Tehran’s ballistic missile program and its “support for terrorism.” She praised the George W. Bush and Barack Obama administrations’ alleged use of the Stuxnet computer virus to damage Iran’s nuclear program, upholding it as a model “to fight future threats.”
In the same speech, Gillibrand argued that fighting terrorism “does not require holding territory” while calling for a repeal of existing military authorizations and laying out her criteria for new legal authorizations.
Meanwhile, Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., voted to sanction Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman after a robust Foreign Relations Committee debate on July 25. And Marianne Williamson accused the Saudis of waging a “genocidal war” in Yemen in a Face the Nation interview on July 28.
Joe Biden served as a US senator for Delaware from 1973 until 2009, eventually chairing the Judiciary and Foreign Relations committees. During that time, he voted against the Gulf War in 1991 but in favor of authorizing the use of force against Iraq in 2002. He also raised eyebrows with a proposal to partition Iraq into three autonomous regions at the height of the civil war in 2006.
After failed presidential campaigns in 1988 and 2008, Biden served as Barack Obama’s vice president from 2009 to 2017, taking over several key foreign policy portfolios, including US-Iraq relations. As vice president, he was also tasked with selling the Iran nuclear deal to skeptical lawmakers on Capitol Hill, lobbying at cross-purposes with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a decadeslong friend. After leaving the White House, he established the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy & Global Engagement at the University of Pennsylvania.
Tony Blinken served as Joe Biden’s foreign policy adviser on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee from 2002 to 2008. Prior to that he served on President Bill Clinton’s National Security Council (NSC), ultimately becoming the president’s senior director for European and Canadian affairs.
When Biden became vice president in 2009, Blinken followed his boss back to the White House as his national security adviser, helping him handle the withdrawal of US combat troops from Iraq. President Barack Obama eventually tapped Blinken as his deputy national security adviser in 2013, where he helped design the president’s strategy against the Islamic State and participated in the Iran nuclear deal negotiations. After that, the Senate confirmed him 55-38 as deputy secretary of state. After Obama left office, Blinken co-founded the geopolitical consulting firm WestExec Advisers and joined the advisory boards for both Foreign Policy for America and National Security Action, two liberal advocacy groups.
Nicholas Burns launched his career in 1983 as a foreign service officer in the Middle East. After serving in Egypt, he moved to the US Consulate in Jerusalem, where he oversaw US economic aid for the Palestinians. Burns ascended through the State Department’s ranks with a brief stint on President Bill Clinton’s National Security Council from 1990 to 1995 as the senior director for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasian affairs.
President George W. Bush tapped Burns as the US ambassador to NATO from 2001 to 2005. A supporter of the Iraq war, Burns eventually became Bush’s undersecretary of state for political affairs from 2005 to 2008. Shortly after leaving the State Department in 2008 to teach at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, Burns called for “a very strong effort to get to the negotiating table with Iran.” Burns also serves as the director for the Aspen Strategy Group, a senior adviser at the Cohen Group – a consulting firm – and sits on the board for both the Council on Foreign Relations and the Atlantic Council. He also serves on the advisory board for the liberal advocacy groups Foreign Policy for America and National Security Action while consulting for Goldman Sachs.
Carlyn Reichel started her career as a presidential management fellow at the State Department in 2009, ultimately becoming a speechwriter for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. After leaving the State Department in 2013, she continued writing speeches for President Barack Obama’s National Security Council. She went on to become Vice President Joe Biden’s foreign policy speechwriter in 2015. After the vice president left office, Reichel joined him to serve as the communications director at the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy & Global Engagement.
Senator and former mayor of Burlington, Vt.
Bernie Sanders became the first independent elected to Congress in 1990 after serving eight years as mayor of Burlington, Vermont. He served in the House until 2007, when he became a US senator caucusing with the Democrats. He is the only candidate to have lived in Israel, staying on a socialist Kibbutz for several months in the 1960s. He drew a significant contrast with Hillary Clinton during his failed 2016 primary campaign by running on a pro-Palestinian platform as a Jewish candidate. He skipped the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s (AIPAC) 2016 policy summit and instead delivered a speech criticizing Israel’s human rights record.
He has focused more on foreign policy in the lead up to the 2020 race and was one of only two senators to vote against additional Iran sanctions in 2017. He is one of Capitol Hill’s most outspoken critics of US involvement in Yemen, mustering enough bipartisan support to pass a resolution ending US support for the Saudi-led coalition fighting the Iran-backed Houthis. Although President Trump ultimately vetoed the stand-alone resolution, Democrats are pushing to get it through as part of a larger bill.
1998: Opposed President Bill Clinton's airstrikes against Iraq.
2002: Voted against the Authorization for Use of Military Force in Iraq.
2007: Opposed President George W. Bush's troop surge in Iraq and called for US withdrawal.
2007: Voted for the Biden resolution calling for a federalized Iraq along sectarian and ethnic lines.
2015: Supported President Obama's airstrikes against the Islamic State but called for limits on US ground troops.
1995: Voted against moving the US Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.
2016: Skipped AIPAC's annual conference during his presidential bid to deliver a speech in Utah criticizing Israel's occupation of the West Bank, its blockade of the Gaza Strip and its 2014 military offensive against Hamas.
2017: Voted for a pro-Israel resolution in favor of moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem.
2017: Floated military aid cuts to Israel in an interview with The Intercept.
2017: Co-signed a letter to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu urging him not to demolish a West Bank village and opposing settlement expansion.
2018: Opposed President Trump's relocation of the US Embassy to Jerusalem.
2018: Opposed President Trump's elimination of Palestinian aid.
2018: Condemned Israel for firing on Palestinians during Gaza border protests.
2018: Endorsed by liberal lobbying group J Street for his Senate reelection bid.
2018: Labelled Prime Minister Netanyahu's government "racist."
February 2019: Voted against anti-BDS legislation over free speech concerns.
July 2019: Endorsed using military aid to Israel as leverage to change the government's behavior.
July 2019: Vowed to "sit down in a room" for negotiations with Israeli and Palestinian leadership.
September 2019: Condemned Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's plan to annex parts of the West Bank.
October 2019: Called on the United States to condition military aid for Israel on human rights conditions in the Gaza Strip.
October 2019: Criticized "corruption" within the Palestinian Authority.
November 2019: Called for an end to rocket attacks on Israel and an end to the Gaza blockade.
Matt Duss entered the foreign policy world as a writer in the liberal blogosphere, focusing on the Middle East, US military intervention, Islamophobia and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. After working as a staffer for the Center for American Progress, Duss become the national security editor for the liberal think tank’s blog — ThinkProgress — in 2008. ThinkProgress’ pro-Palestinian stances under Duss drew the ire of pro-Israel groups, prompting him to accuse the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and the hawkish Foundation for Defense of Democracies of orchestrating a coordinated opposition campaign against the blog. Duss became president of the pro-Palestinian Foundation for Middle East Peace in 2014, leaving ThinkProgress three years after Neera Tanden, a staunch pro-Israel supporter and Bernie Sanders critic, took charge of the Center for American Progress.
As Bernie Sanders’ failed 2016 campaign against Hillary Clinton wound down, the senator tapped Duss to argue in favor of singling out Israel’s occupation of the West Bank in the Democratic party’s 2016 platform. (Clinton’s rival pro-Israel delegates ultimately won out, forestalling any reference to the occupation.) Sanders hired Duss as his Senate foreign policy adviser in 2017, where he has spearheaded the lawmaker’s efforts to end US involvement in the Yemen war.
The son of an Egyptian-born Jewish journalist and an American who worked for the UN delegation of Algeria’s National Liberation Front, Robert Malley informally advises Bernie Sanders on foreign policy. Malley attended Harvard Law School with President Barack Obama. After clerking for Supreme Court Justice Byron White from 1991 to 1992, Malley became a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, focusing on Algeria. President Bill Clinton tapped Malley to serve as the National Security Council’s director for democracy, human rights and humanitarian affairs in 1994. He went on to become the executive assistant to national security adviser Sandy Berger in 1996 and then served as Clinton’s special assistant for Arab-Israeli affairs from 1998 to 2001.
During the George W. Bush administration, Malley became the International Crisis Group’s program director for the Middle East and North Africa, where he continued to focus on Arab-Israeli affairs, US policy in Iraq and Islamist movements. Malley briefly served as an informal adviser to Obama during his 2008 presidential bid. But the campaign severed ties with him after reports emerged that Malley had met with Hamas officials as part of his work for the International Crisis Group. That didn’t stop Obama from tapping him as the National Security Council’s coordinator for the Middle East, North Africa and the Gulf in 2014. In that role, he served as the White House’s lead negotiator for the Iran nuclear deal and became Obama’s point man for the campaign against the Islamic State. After leaving the Obama White House, Malley returned to the International Crisis Group as its president and CEO. He also sits on the advisory boards for Foreign Policy for America and National Security Action, two liberal advocacy groups dominated by former Obama administration officials.
Suzanne DiMaggio has nearly two decades of experience in back-channel diplomacy with private individuals in countries that do not enjoy formal relations with the United States government, particularly Iran and North Korea. A specialist in the Middle East, Asia, arms control and nonproliferation, DiMaggio is a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and an associate senior fellow at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. She is joining Andrew Bacevich, the non-interventionist academic and Trita Parsi, the former president of the National Iranian American Council, in co-founding an anti-war think tank – the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft – which is expected to set up shop in November 2019.
After establishing a long-running dialogue between Iranians and Americans in 2002, she joined the New America Foundation in 2014 as the director of the think tank’s US-Iran initiative, which aimed to improve relations between Washington and Tehran. Prior to that she served as the vice president of global policy programs at the Asia Society from 2007 to 2014, the vice president of policy programs at the United Nations Association of the USA from 1998 to 2007 and a program officer at the United Nations University from 1993 to 1998.
Dropped out of race:
Senator and former superintendent of public schools in Denver, Colorado
Michael Bennet has represented Colorado in the Senate since 2009 and sits on the Intelligence Committee, which oversees the CIA and other covert US activities. The son of a Holocaust survivor who identifies as Christian, Bennet spent several years as a director for a venture capital firm before becoming the chief of staff for then-Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper — who is now one of his primary opponents — and ultimately became the superintendent of Denver public schools.
Unlike most of his colleagues, Bennet has so far refrained from publicly criticizing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He has said that one of his first calls as president would be to the Israeli prime minister to “remind them that our relationship is strong.” He was also one of only two presidential candidates to vote for an anti-boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) bill in the Senate this year that has drawn free-speech concerns. He opposed President Donald Trump’s decision to move the US Embassy to Jerusalem, arguing that it undermines the peace process with the Palestinians. He also stands out from his opponents on Syria as the only 2020 hopeful in the Senate to vote for a resolution rebuking Trump’s decision to withdraw troops from the war-torn country.
A former mayor of Newark, New Jersey, Cory Booker was first elected to the Senate in a special election in 2013 before winning a full term in 2014. Booker entered Congress with staunchly pro-Israel credentials, in part due to his close personal connection with right-wing Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, who helped him solicit donations for his campaign. Booker’s vote for President Obama’s Iran nuclear deal in 2015, however, precipitated a public falling out with Boteach.
Booker joined the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in 2017. Since then, he has occasionally parted ways with the powerful American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), notably on President Trump’s decision to move the US Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. Booker also voted against AIPAC-backed legislation targeting the pro-Palestinian BDS movement this year despite co-sponsoring an anti-boycott bill in 2018. Booker has argued that it’s illegal to keep US troops in Syria following the Islamic State’s territorial defeat. But he has also accused Trump of “ceding” territory in the war-torn country to Iran.
Sophia Lalani has served as Cory Booker’s defense and foreign policy adviser in the Senate since 2014. Prior to that she was a foreign policy fellow for Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., from 2013 to 2014, handling his Foreign Relations Committee portfolio in the Middle East and elsewhere throughout the globe. Lalani briefly lived in Saudi Arabia in 2011 as an urban planning consultant, where she developed a plan to expand west Riyadh. Before that she conducted field research in Jordan from 2009 to 2010 as part of her master’s in urban planning at Columbia University.
Governor and former attorney general of Montana
Steve Bullock has served as the governor of Montana since 2013. Having narrowly won his 2016 reelection in a state that President Donald Trump carried by more than 20 points, Bullock hews closely to the centrist wing of the Democratic party. Before becoming Montana’s governor, he served as the state’s attorney general from 2009 to 2013. Prior to that he worked in Washington at the international law firm Steptoe & Johnson and as an adjunct professor at George Washington University Law School.
Bullock has not focused much on foreign policy, opting instead to center his campaign around campaign finance reform — his cause celebre as Montana’s attorney general. However, he stands out from the majority of other Democratic candidates with his refusal to reenter the Iran nuclear deal “word for word.” Still, he has vowed to end US support for the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen and has criticized Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s policies in the West Bank and Gaza, putting him more in line with other candidates — both centrist and progressive.
Pete Buttigieg has served as mayor of South Bend, Indiana, since 2012. He deployed to Afghanistan in 2014, where he was tasked with disrupting terrorists’ financial networks as an intelligence officer with the Navy Reserve.
After embracing the party’s pro-Israel wing, Buttigieg raised eyebrows in June 2019 after declaring that he would “take steps to make sure that American taxpayers won’t help foot the bill” should Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu make good on his pledge to annex parts of the West Bank. But he has ruled out moving the US Embassy back to Tel Aviv despite criticizing President Donald Trump for moving it to Jerusalem. He has also stated that the Palestinian leadership is not “the right kind of partner” for peace. An openly gay man, he has condemned both Saudi Arabia and Iran for their LGBT rights record. Additionally, he's rebuked his former employer — the consulting firm McKinsey and Company — for its work on behalf of Riyadh.
The Senate confirmed Doug Wilson as the assistant secretary of defense for public affairs in 2010, where he served until retiring in 2012. While at the Defense Department, he was responsible for developing Pentagon communications strategies for Iraq, Iran and counterterrorism — including the aftermath of the 2011 raid that killed Osama bin Laden – alongside myriad other issues. The first openly gay person to be confirmed to a senior Pentagon position, Wilson also played a key role in the Barack Obama administration’s repeal of the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy that barred LGBT individuals from openly serving in the military.
Wilson previously worked in communications for both Boeing and Microsoft and spent a year leading the centrist Democratic Leadership Council. After leading President Bill Clinton’s 1996 reelection campaign in Arizona, he went on to serve as the deputy assistant secretary of defense for public affairs from 1997 to 1999. He started his career as a foreign service information officer at the now-defunct US Information Agency (USIA), where he was stationed at the embassy in London during the Iran hostage crisis. He went on to serve as USIA’s director of congressional affairs in the early 1990s. Wilson is the chairman emeritus of the board of advisers for the Truman National Security Project, was the founding chairman of the board of directors for Harvard’s Public Diplomacy Collaborative and has served on the board of directors for Third Way, a centrist think tank. He is the former vice president for the consulting firm the Cohen Group as well as the Development for Business Executives for National Security. He currently sits on the advisory board for National Security Action, a foreign policy advocacy group dominated by former Obama administration officials.
Amanda Sloat served as deputy assistant secretary of state for Southern Europe and Eastern Mediterranean Affairs from 2013 to 2016 and briefly coordinated Middle East policy on President Barack Obama’s National Security Council in 2013. Prior to that, she served as a senior adviser for European Affairs — including Turkey — at the State Department from 2011 to 2013. At both the State Department and White House, she coordinated European involvement in the anti-Islamic State coalition and on refugee flows.
Before joining the Obama administration, Sloat was a Democratic staffer on the House Foreign Relations Committee from 2007 to 2010, where she helped craft sanctions on Iran. And as a senior program officer with the National Democratic Institute from 2005 to 2007, she spent six months in Iraq managing a $28 million democratic development program. During that time, she also served as an election observer in the Gaza Strip. Sloat is currently a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and a senior adviser at the Albright Stonebridge Group, an international consulting firm. At Brookings, she has called for “constructive and principled engagement” with Ankara, including the “use of economic leverage” and “expanded people-to-people ties” to salvage the US-Turkish relationship.
Vali Nasr is a professor of Middle East Studies and International Affairs at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. He served as dean of the school from 2012 until stepping down in June 2019. He was previously a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and is a lifelong member of the Council on Foreign Relations. His academic career has spanned several universities, including Tufts’ Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy and Harvard’s Belfer
Center, where he held a senior fellowship. Nasr is a prolific author of several books on the Middle East and Islamism and has focused extensively on Shiite Islam. He sat on the Foreign Policy Affairs Board, which provides independent advice to the secretary of state, under the Barack Obama administration. He was also the senior adviser to Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, the US special representative to Afghanistan, from 2009 to 2011. Nasr was born in Iran, educated in the United Kingdom and immigrated to the United States after the 1979 revolution.
Ned Price worked in the CIA as an analyst and then spokesman from 2006 until 2017, when he resigned after publicly condemning President Donald Trump’s treatment of the intelligence community. Since then he has served as a national security contributor for NBC News, an adjunct professor at Georgetown University’s Walsh School of Foreign Service, a lecturer at George Washington University and as the director of policy and communications at National Security Action, a liberal advocacy group run by former Barack Obama administration officials. He also sits on the advisory board for Foreign Policy for America, another advocacy group dominated by Democrats. While at the CIA, Price worked on loan to the National Security Council from 2014 to 2017 as a spokesman and special assistant to Obama. Before joining the CIA, Price worked briefly as an associate for The Cohen Group, a consulting firm.
Former secretary of housing and urban development and mayor of San Antonio, Texas
Julian Castro served as secretary of housing and urban development from 2014 to 2017 and was the youngest member of President Barack Obama’s Cabinet. Prior to that, he served as mayor of San Antonio, Texas, from 2009 to 2014. In 2011, he led a delegation of businessmen and clergy to Israel, where he signed a city-friendship agreement with Tel Aviv as well as a memorandum of understanding with Eilat to help improve San Antonio’s water management.
As housing secretary, Castro defended Obama’s negotiations with Iran and the president's tense relationship with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu by pointing to the administration’s military assistance to Israel. On the campaign trail, he has joined other candidates in lambasting Prime Minister Netanyahu’s pledge to annex parts of the West Bank. He has also accused President Donald Trump of undermining the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians. While calling Trump administration “hell-bent” on war with Iran, he has also called for the United States and its allies to coordinate sanctions in order to deter Iranian aggression.
2011: Signed a friendship agreement with Tel Aviv as mayor of San Antonio and a water management memorandum with Eilat.
2013: Voiced support for security assistance to Israel under President Obama.
April 2019: Criticized Prime Minister Netanyahu's pledge to annex parts of the West Bank and accused President Trump of "abandoning our position as a good faith partner in the Middle East peace process."
October 2019: Said he would not take conditioning military aid to Israel over a West Bank annexation "off the table," but said it would "not be my first move."
October 2019: Vowed to reopen the US consulate in East Jerusalem and "make clear that under a two-state approach that would be the embassy under a Palestinian state" while allowing the Palestinians to reopen their Washington delegation.
October 2019: Vowed to restore UN humanitarian aid funding for the Palestinians.
October 2019: Voiced opposition to the BDS movement but also opposes anti-BDS legislation over free speech concerns.
Mayor of New York City and former public advocate for the city
Bill de Blasio has served as the mayor of New York City since 2014. Prior to that he was the city's public advocate from 2010 to 2013 and a city councilman between 2002 and 2009. As the leader of the city with the nation's largest Jewish population, he has had to navigate between his liberal base and support for Israel. While he endorsed the nuclear deal with Iran, de Blasio previously stated that “the only thing the Iranian government understands” is military and economic force. During an appearance before the American Israel Public Affairs Committee's (AIPAC) annual conference this year, he made a progressive case against the pro-Palestinian boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign, declaring that "Israel at its core is there to shelter an oppressed people." Despite his pro-Israel positions, he has criticized Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for backing off a two-state solution as far back as 2015 — before most of his opponents started openly lambasting the Israeli leader.
Coming from the city that suffered the worst loss of life from the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks has also put de Blasio at odds with US ally Saudi Arabia. In 2013, he lambasted the kingdom for refusing to allow Israeli passport holders to travel on its national airline's flights out of JFK International Airport. And as mayor, he sided with Congress — and against President Barack Obama — by supporting legislation that made it easier for the families of Sept. 11 victims to sue Riyadh. More recently, he has endorsed congressional efforts to end US support for the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen.
July 2019: Stated that "we're on the march to war in Iran right now."
2014: Praised President Obama for opposing "boots on the ground" in the fight against the Islamic State.
2015: Called invitation for Prime Minister Netanyahu to address Congress a “mistake.”
2015: Called Prime Minister Netanyahu’s statement that no Palestinian state would be established under his watch “a huge step backwards for peace in the region.”
March 2019: Made a progressive case against the pro-Palestinian BDS boycott campaign at the annual AIPAC summit in Washington, declaring that “Israel at its core is there to shelter an oppressed people.”
March 2019: Called a two-state solution “the best hope for peace” amid attacks against pro-Palestinian members of Congress.
2016: Highlighted New York City's role in resettling Syrian refugees.
Former congressman representing western Maryland, businessman
John Delaney is a businessman who represented western Maryland in the House of Representatives from 2013 to 2019. He is the co-founder of small business lenders CapitalSource and Healthcare Financial Partners.
Despite not sitting on any foreign policy panels, Delaney staked out pro-Israel positions while in Congress, co-sponsoring anti-BDS legislation despite free speech concerns. He voted for the Iran nuclear deal and accused President Donald Trump of pushing for “regime change” in Iran, but has also called for military action against Tehran should it take steps to build a nuclear bomb. He has also advocated for tougher sanctions in response to Iran's ballistic missile tests. Delaney endorsed Trump’s 2017 Syria airstrikes in response to the Khan Sheikhoun sarin gas attack, though he did call on the president to present a broader Syria strategy.
June 2019: Supported a new militray authorization with a five-year time limit and geographical limitations to replace the 2001 authorization that serves as the legal basis for counterterror operations.
2018: Blamed Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for Jamal Khashoggi's murder.
2018: Supported ending military aid for the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen.
July 2019: Vowed to ban Saudi officials from White House visits and to stop high-level US delegations from visiting the kingdom.
2013: Voted for new Iran sanctions, siding against President Obama.
Tulsi Gabbard was the youngest person ever to join the Hawaii state legislature when she was elected in 2002, at the age of 21. Ten years later, she won a seat on the House of Representatives as the first Samoan American and first Hindu member of Congress. A member of the Hawaii National Guard, she has served in Iraq and Kuwait. As a member of the Armed Services Committee and a former member of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Gabbard is running a foreign policy-focused campaign against US-sponsored "regime change."
Gabbard's global views make her an outlier in the crowded Democratic field. She has supported Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad and his ally Russia against the Islamic State (IS) and was the first Democratic lawmaker to meet with President-elect Donald Trump after the 2016 election. She has also embraced right-wing backers of the Israeli settler movement, including Republican megadonors Sheldon and Miriam Adelson as well as Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, who gave her an award in 2016 at his annual Champions of Jewish Values gala. That has not stopped her from condemning Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s West Bank settlement policies and accusing Israel and Saudi Arabia of trying to drag the United States into war with Iran.
Kirsten Gillibrand has represented New York in the Senate since 2009 following one term as a congresswoman from an upstate conservative district. Gillibrand noted her opposition to the Iraq war during her 2006 House campaign. She went on to caucus with the conservative Blue Dog Democrats but shifted to the left once in the Senate.
While she has not embraced the same pro-Palestinian positions as some of her opponents, Gillibrand's record on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has also moved left in recent years. She has consistently advocated for military aid to Israel and introduced a 2012 resolution supporting Israel’s right to defend itself from Hamas rocket attacks but has also drawn scrutiny for her shifting stance on anti-boycott legislation. Although she initially supported anti-boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) legislation pushed by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee in 2017, she changed positions after the American Civil Liberties Union raised free speech concerns. At the same time, she closely aligned herself with the pro-Palestinian organizers of the Women’s March, which emerged as a backlash to President Donald Trump’s election.
A career prosecutor, Kamala Harris won her first election in 2004 as district attorney for San Francisco. She went on to serve as the state’s attorney general from 2011 to 2016. She was elected to her first term as US senator for California in 2016. She sits on the Intelligence Committee, which notably oversees the CIA and other covert assets and assesses threats from the Middle East and other areas.
Harris supported President Barack Obama’s Iran nuclear deal during her 2015 Senate campaign. But she has come under criticism from her party’s left flank over her support for Israel. In her campaign she has sought a middle ground in the increasingly fractured Democratic politics over the country. While vocally defending Israel’s right to respond to Gaza rocket attacks, her campaign has voiced concerns about Israel’s potential annexation of parts of the West Bank.
Matt Williams became Kamala Harris’ national security adviser in February 2019 after his former boss, Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., lost his 2018 reelection bid. Williams had repeatedly worked for Nelson throughout his career, starting as his special assistant from 2007 to 2008, then returning as a legislative assistant in 2014. Nelson promoted Williams to his national security adviser in 2017. In between his stints in Nelson’s office, he worked as an analyst for the Crumpton Group, an international affairs consulting firm from 2013 to 2014 and as an intelligence analyst at the Defense Department from 2008 to 2011.
Matt Spence served as President Barack Obama’s deputy assistant secretary of defense for Middle East policy from 2012 to 2015 — the height of the US campaign against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. During that time, he helped broker a massive $10 billion arms sale in missiles, warplanes and troop transports to Israel, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to bolster the three countries’ defenses against Iran. He also served as a key liaison to Israel and point man for the Iron Dome missile defense program. Immediately prior to that, Spence served
on the National Security Council as Obama’s senior director for international economic affairs between 2011 to 2012 and as a special assistant to national security advisers James Jones and Tom Donilon from 2009 to 2011. Spence is currently the managing director at Guggenheim Partners, a financial services consulting firm. Additionally, he is a co-founder and current board member of the Truman National Security Project and serves on the board of advisers for the hawkish Foundation for Defense of Democracies’ Center on Cyber and Technology Innovation.
Former governor of Colorado and geologist
John Hickenlooper was governor of Colorado from 2011 to 2019 after serving as mayor of Denver from 2003 to 2011. Prior to that he co-founded a successful brewery, selling his stake for $7 million following a career as a geologist. As governor, he pushed for increased business and technical cooperation with Israel, including a 2015 effort to bolster Colorado’s budding cannabis industry. But his promotion of Colorado business placed him in an awkward position in 2018 after he congratulated the Colorado-based Saudi lobbyist Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck mere weeks after the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
Hickenlooper supports continued military engagement in the Middle East, stating that it would be a “tragic and costly mistake” to pull out of the region. He has also criticized President Donald Trump’s “unilateral withdrawal” from Syria. And while he has expressed a willingness to rejoin the Iran nuclear deal, he has said he would only do so if he negotiated more stringent conditions to add to the accord.
Jay Inslee is the governor of Washington. He previously represented the state in the US House of Representatives from 1993 to 1995 and then again from 1999 to 2012. Inslee is centering his campaign around climate change and has called to orient US foreign policy around that issue. His campaign website lists Saudi Arabia, Iran and Russia as part of the “axis of oil,” lambasting them for their “anti-democratic practices.”
After voting to increase sanctions on Iran several times while in the House, Inslee has vowed to reenter the Iran deal as president. He also co-sponsored a bill to prevent President George W. Bush from taking military action against Iran and voted against the use of force against Iraq in 2002. While he voted with all but one of his colleagues for the 2001 military authorization against terrorists following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, he has recently voiced his support to add restrictions to that authorization.
Amy Klobuchar has represented Minnesota in the Senate since 2007. Prior to that she served as a prosecutor after beginning her career as a corporate lawyer. Boasting close ties to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), Klobuchar was one of only two presidential candidates to vote for an anti-BDS bill in the Senate earlier this year. But she also became the first Democratic candidate to criticize Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s electoral alliance with the extremist Jewish Power party — shortly after AIPAC and other pro-Israel groups did the same.
Klobuchar voted to withdraw troops from Iraq over the objections of President George W. Bush but has taken a more hawkish stance on Syria than most of her party. She notably endorsed President Donald Trump’s 2017 and 2018 airstrikes on Syrian military targets following President Bashar al-Assad’s repeated use of chemical weapons. While she has called on Trump to counter Iranian activity in Syria, she also voted against legislation warning the president against rapidly withdrawing troops from the war-torn country.
Kevin Lawson signed on as Amy Klobuchar’s senior policy adviser in the Senate in 2018. His portfolio includes foreign affairs, defense, cybersecurity and homeland security. Prior to that he served as a senior adviser to Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Rose Gottemoeller – as well as her predecessor, Ellen Tauscher – from 2011 to 2016. Lawson worked in the department’s bureau of Arms Control and International Security while the Barack Obama administration was negotiating the Iran nuclear deal.
Former congressman and El Paso, Texas city councilman
Beto O’Rourke served in the House of Representatives from 2013 to 2019. Prior to that, he served on the El Paso city council from 2005 to 2011 following a brief musical and business career. The liberal lobbying group J Street shelled out more than $250,000 for his failed 2018 Senate bid against Texas Republican Ted Cruz, making the dovish group his largest campaign donor.
While in the House, he sat on the Armed Services Committee, where he often bucked the bipartisan majority of his colleagues on Israel and Iran policy. Citing Palestinian civilian casualties in the 2014 Gaza war, he was one of only eight lawmakers to vote against $225 million in additional funding for Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system. And he was also only one of 20 House members to side with President Barack Obama and vote against additional Iran sanctions in 2013. He was also in the minority in voting against a 2017 resolution rebuking the UN Security Council for its resolution against West Bank settlements. On the 2020 campaign trail, he has called Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “racist,” while also questioning whether the Palestinian Authority is an “open partner” for a two-state solution.
May 2019: Accused President Trump of "provoking yet another war in the Middle East" by deploying additional troops to counter Iran.
2014: Voted to keep US troops out of a combat role in Iraq.
2016: Argued that the 2003 invasion of Iraq led to the rise of the Islamic State and Middle East destabilization.
April 2019: Vowed to end US military involvement in Iraq.
2014: Voted against additional funding for Israel's Iron Dome missile defense system, citing the death of Palestinian civilians in the Gaza war.
2017: Voted against a bill rebuking a UN Security Council resolution against West Bank settlements.
2018: Condemned President Trump's Jerusalem embassy move as "absolutely unnecessarily provocative."
2018: Co-sponsored a bill that would codify into law $3.8 billion in annual military aid to Israel for 10 years.
2018: Endorsed by liberal lobbying group J Street for his Senate bid.
March 2019: Questioned whether the Palestinian Authority is "an open partner" for a two-state solution.
April 2019: Condemned Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu as "racist."
July 2019: Ruled out moving the US Embassy back to Tel Aviv.
September 2019: Warned that annexing the West Bank would undermine the Palestinian right to self-determination.
September 2019: Vowed to "support and sustain" a "strong relationship with Israel" while holding Palestinains accountable for Gaza rocket attacks and Israelis accountable for "disproportionate use of force."
2013: Called on President Obama to get congressional approval before striking President Bashar al-Assad's forces in retaliation for a chemical weapons attack and to seek an "international consensus" on condemning the attack.
2014: Voted against arming Syrian rebel groups against the Islamic State.
2015: Voted against increased vetting for Syrian refugees.
2018: Opposed President Trump's airstrikes against Assad's forces, citing legal concerns.
January 2019: Argued that "there may be a very good reason" for President Trump to withdraw troops from Syria.
September 2019: Ruled out resuming diplomatic relations with the Bashar al-Assad government.
Tim Ryan has represented Ohio in Congress since 2003, after briefly serving in the Ohio state senate in 2001-2002. An early opponent of the Iraq war and a member of the defense appropriations panel, Ryan has hewn closely to the pro-Israel wing of the party, repeatedly supporting Israel's right to defend itself against attacks from Hamas. However, he has also voted for the Iran nuclear deal and called for more political engagement with Tehran.
Ryan notably supported President Donald Trump’s airstrikes against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces, even as he called on the White House to lay out a “comprehensive Syria policy.” He has also cautioned that any long-term operation would require congressional approval.
Tom Steyer is a billionaire activist and Democratic megadonor. The son of a Jewish prosecutor at the Nuremberg trials, Steyer attended Stanford Business School and then worked in mergers and acquisitions at Goldman Sachs from 1983 to 1985. After that became a partner at the San Francisco-based private equity firm Hellman & Friedman and went on to found the investment firm Farallon Capital in 1986. When Steyer stepped down from Farallon in 2012, he was managing $20 billion in assets.
After leaving Farallon, Steyer launched NextGen America, an environmental advocacy group, as well as an accompanying Super PAC, NextGen Climate. When Donald Trump assumed the presidency in 2017, Steyer spent some $80 million on a campaign calling for his impeachment. One of his impeachment ads displayed images of the Saudi royal family while accusing Trump of making money from “wealthy foreign interests trying to influence” his decisions. And while House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., ultimately decided to move forward with impeachment in September 2019, Steyer has also criticized her for failing to impeach former President George W. Bush over the Iraq war.
Congressman and former deputy district attorney for Alameda County, Calif.
Eric Swalwell entered the House in 2013 after defeating fellow California Democrat Pete Stark, a 40-year incumbent. Prior to that, he served as the deputy district attorney for Alameda County, Calif. His presidential campaign focuses largely on gun control and impeaching President Donald Trump.
A skeptic of military engagement in Iraq and Syria, Swalwell voted to keep US troops out of a combat role in Iraq to fight the Islamic State (IS). He also voted against arming Syrian opposition groups against the terror group. He has co-sponsored anti-boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) legislation over the objections of free speech advocates, but was in the minority in voting against legislation rebuking the UN Security Council for condemning West Bank settlements. Swalwell has served on the House Intelligence Committee, which oversees US covert action, since 2015.
Elizabeth Warren began her career as an academic specializing in bankruptcy law. Following the 2008 financial crisis, she served as the first head of a panel overseeing the US government’s purchase of toxic assets and oversaw the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. She has represented Massachusetts in the Senate since 2013 and joined the Armed Services Committee in 2017.
Warren has used her spot on the committee to call out the Trump administration’s support for the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen and civilian casualties resulting from US-made bombs. Following the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, she has pressed lobbyists and consultants on their work for Saudi Arabia as part of her broader lobbying reform efforts. Warren has moved left on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict during her time in office, recently assailing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over corruption allegations.
Elizabeth Warren tapped Sasha Baker as her national security adviser in 2017. Baker served as the deputy chief of staff to Defense Secretary Ash Carter from 2015 to 2017, where she was awarded the Defense Department’s medal for distinguished public service. At the Pentagon, Baker was responsible for preparing the Defense Department budget.
Baker worked in the White House’s Office of Management and Budget from 2011 to 2015 – first as a program examiner in the National Security and Homeland Security divisions and then as a special assistant to the Office of Management and Budget director. While at the Office of Management and Budget, Baker did a six-month detail as a special assistant to the Joint Chiefs of Staff, where she focused on defense budgetary measures. She began her public service career as a staffer with the House Armed Services Committee’s oversight panel. While completing her master’s in public policy at the Harvard Kennedy School, she held a global affairs fellowship at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs.
Jonathan Rue joined Elizabeth Warren’s Senate office as a defense fellow in 2017 and currently serves as her senior defense policy adviser on Capitol Hill. He earned his master’s in international relations at the London School of Economics and Political Science in 2007 and then deployed to Iraq as an intelligence officer with the Marine Corps and a military adviser to the Iraqi army. Following his military service, Rue specialized in defense budgetary issues and legislative analysis from 2012-2015 as the chief of staff and senior policy adviser for the Punaro Group, a small consulting firm. He went on to provide congressional outreach as part of the Marine Corps’ legislative affairs office from 2015 to 2018. He is a member of the Truman National Security Project defense council and has written for multiple outlets, including Foreign Affairs, the Guardian and War on the Rocks.
Feras Sleiman joined Elizabeth Warren’s Senate office as a legislative correspondent in 2013. He went on to become a legislative aide for the Massachusetts senator in 2015 and then her assistant counsel in 2017. Sleiman handles a wide-ranging legislative portfolio for Warren, including foreign affairs and defense issues in addition to her signature domestic issues such as banking, trade and consumer protection. He graduated from the University of Minnesota Law School in 2012 and previously worked in human rights law.
Ganesh Sitaraman is a Vanderbilt law professor who has advised Elizabeth Warren since she chaired the congressional oversight panel on the government’s purchase of toxic assets following the 2008 financial crisis. His current legal research focuses on foreign relations and on constitutional and administrative law. He went on leave from Vanderbilt from 2011 to 2013 to advise Warren on her successful 2012 Senate campaign and then serve as her senior counsel. Before joining Vanderbilt, Sitaraman lectured at Harvard Law School. He is a principal member of the Truman National Security Project, an advisory board member of the liberal advocacy group Foreign Policy for America and was previously a research fellow at the Counterinsurgency Training Center in Afghanistan and a visiting fellow at the Center for a New American Security. Sitaraman has written on foreign and domestic policy for numerous outlets, including The New York Times and War on the Rocks, where he has argued in favor of a new set of progressive foreign policy principles.
Spiritual adviser and author
Marianne Williamson is an author and spiritual guru who previously ran a failed congressional campaign to represent Southern California as an independent in 2014. Espousing an anti-war platform, she has accused President Donald Trump of “saber rattling” on Iran and vocally criticized US support for the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen. However, she has also called for a “draw down” instead of the “immediate removal of troops” from Syria, citing a potential “betrayal of the Kurds” and the latent threat from the Islamic State (IS).
She has also staked out one of the furthest left positions on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, promising to declare West Bank settlements as “illegal” while in office and has called on Israel “to end the blockade in Gaza.” She does not support the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel, however.
Andrew Yang is a New York entrepreneur and the founder of Venture for America, a nonprofit fellowship program that prepares recent college graduates for careers as entrepreneurs by placing them with startups across the country. Yang is running primarily on an economic platform but generally supports limiting engagement in the Middle East.
As part of his “Foreign Policy First” platform, he has vowed to sign a repeal of current military authorizations, which serve as the legal basis for counterterrorism operations throughout the region. He supports the phased withdrawal of US troops from Syria. And he has called for empowering regional partners to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, warning that “America should not take all these responsibilities onto itself.”
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