Mon, Nov 16, 2015 - Page 7 News List

PARIS ATTACKS: Paris, foreign policy focus of second Democratic debate

Reuters, DES MOINES, Iowa

From left, US Senator Bernie Sanders, former US secretary of state Hillary Rodham Clinton and former Maryland governor Martin O’Malley on Saturday stand at the venue for the second Democratic presidential debate in Des Moines, Iowa, for a moment of silence for those killed in the Paris attacks on Friday.

Photo: AP

US Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Rodham Clinton played defense over her 2003 vote backing the US invasion of Iraq and inched away from US President Barack Obama on Syria and the rise of Islamic State militants during a contentious debate on Saturday.

Clinton’s rivals for the White House, Senator Bernie Sanders and former Maryland governor Martin O’Malley, took a more aggressive tone than in their first debate last month. They accused Clinton of being too cozy with Wall Street and taking campaign donations that made her unwilling to stand up to corporate interests.

The day after a series of bomb and gun attacks that killed at least 129 people in Paris, Sanders linked Clinton’s US Senate vote authorizing the Iraq invasion to the regional chaos that followed.

Sanders called it “one of the worst foreign policy blunders in the modern history of the United States.”

“I would argue that the disastrous invasion of Iraq, something that I strongly opposed, unraveled the region immensely, and led to the rise of al-Qaeda and to ISIS [Islamic State of Iraq and Syria],” Sanders said.

“I don’t think any sensible person would disagree that the invasion of Iraq led to the massive level of instability we are seeing right now,” he said.

Clinton’s support for the 2003 Iraq invasion played a major role in her primary loss to Obama in the 2008 White House race.

Clinton has frequently called the Iraq vote a mistake and said it should be placed in the historical context of years of terrorism before the invasion.

“This is an incredibly complicated region of the world. It’s become more complicated. And many of the fights that are going on are not ones that the United States has either started or have a role in,” she said on Saturday.

Clinton said countries in the region would have to play a major role in resolving the conflict.

“It cannot be an American fight. And I think what the president has consistently said, which I agree with, is that we will support those who take the fight to ISIS,” she said.

Clinton struck a sharp contrast to Obama’s comments in an interview aired on Friday that ISIS had been contained, saying it “cannot be contained, it must be defeated.”

She also played up her efforts to find solutions in the region, noting she had pushed for an effort to train and equip Syrian moderates “because I thought there would be extremist groups filling the vacuum.”

The former secretary of state drew another contrast with Obama on Syrian refugees, saying she urged the administration to increase its plan to accept 10,000 refugees in the next fiscal year.

“I said we should go to 65 [thousand], but only if we have as carefully screening and vetting process as we can imagine, whatever resources it takes,” she said.

Republican presidential contenders have criticized Obama for what they say was an inadequate response to the rise of Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, and called on the administration to reconsider plans to allow thousands of Syrian refugees to be resettled in the US.

The second debate for Democrats seeking their party’s nomination for the November next year presidential election focused heavily on foreign policy and ways to combat terrorism after the Paris attacks.

The candidates and audience at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, observed a moment of silence at the beginning of the debate to honor those killed in France.

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