Jill Stein on U.S. Policy in the Mideast

Jill Stein on U.S. Policy in the Mideast
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The foreign policy positions of third-party candidates haven't received a great deal of media attention in the 2016 presidential election, but that could change in the weeks ahead as polls continue to tighten in crucial battleground states.

“[M]ost voters think/assume that Clinton is going to win. That can de-motivate turnout, or shift votes to [third] parties,” tweeted elections analyst Nate Silver.

RealClearWorld had the opportunity this week to discuss a variety of foreign policy issues with Green Party presidential nominee Jill Stein. This email interview has been edited for clarity and length.

RCW: Dr. Stein, you have proposed freezing the bank accounts of officials in the Saudi government -- which Saudi accounts would you target as president?

JILL STEIN: We would freeze the bank accounts of the Saudi government until they freeze the funding for terrorist groups that is coming from their country.

RCW: Congress just recently passed a bill that would allow the families of victims of the 9/11 attacks to sue Saudi Arabia in a U.S. court. President Obama is likely to veto the measure. Where do you stand on this?

JILL STEIN: I would sign the bill to allow the families of 9/11 victims to sue Saudi Arabia. It would be a positive step forward not only for the families of 9/11 victims, but also for international law to allow victims of criminal violence to hold the perpetrators accountable regardless of international borders.

RCW: You recently called for a new investigation into the Sept. 11 attacks. As president, how would you pursue that effort? What do you expect to do differently, and what new information do you expect to discover?

JILL STEIN: The co-chairs of the original 9/11 Commission published a book rjust two years after their own final report, concluding that the Commission was “set up to fail." That is why we would create a truly independent 9/11 commission.

We don’t know what we would discover, but we would ask the independent commission to investigate the ties with Saudi intelligence as revealed in the recently declassified 28 pages of the 2002 Congressional report.

RCW: Various human rights organizations have accused the Syrian government of using incendiary weapons and cluster bombs, and the United Nations has reported on the use of chlorine bombs in the war-torn country. Considering Russia’s support for the Bashar Assad government, would these human rights violations at all complicate your calls for “principled collaboration” in the region?

JILL STEIN: The situation in Syria is complicated and disastrous, with an all-out civil war in Syria, and a proxy war among many powers seeking influence in the region. U.S. pursuit of regime change in Libya and Iraq created the chaos that promotes power grabs by extremist militias. Many of the weapons we are sending into Syria to arm anti-government militias end up in the hands of ISIS. In Syria it’s extremely difficult to sort out this complicated web of resistance fighters, religious extremists, and warlords with backing from regional and world powers.

The one thing that is clear is that U.S. meddling in the Middle East is throwing fuel on the fire.  

I call for principled collaboration in bringing a weapons embargo to the region, freezing the bank accounts of countries that continue to fund terrorist groups, promoting a cease-fire, and supporting inclusive peace talks. The region is extremely complicated.

The best thing we can do for Syria, the Middle East, and the world is to de-escalate this conflict, and involve as many of the players as we can in that de-escalation.

RCW: The United States has several military bases across the Mideast, and thousands of troops stationed in the region. U.S. agencies also engage in counterterrorism efforts with host countries there, and sponsor troop and police training programs in countries like Jordan and Bahrain, just to name a couple. Would you, if elected president, close these bases and end these programs?

JILL STEIN: Yes. The project of U.S. military and economic domination of the Middle East has been a disaster, and we need to send a clear signal that our foreign policy is shifting to one based on diplomacy, international law, and human rights. Bahrain is one of many examples of U.S. support for repressive regimes in the Middle East.

RCW: The United States agreed this week to provide the government of Israel with $38 billion in military aid over the course of ten years -- what is your position on this, and as president would you honor this agreement or work to overturn it?

JILL STEIN: We would put our allies on notice that we will not continue to provide funding or weapons to countries that are flagrantly and systematically violating international law and human rights. This applies not only to Israel, but also to Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain, and others.

The United States government has encouraged the worst tendencies of the Israeli government as it pursues policies of occupation, apartheid, assassination, illegal settlements, demolitions, blockades, building of nuclear bombs, indefinite detention, collective punishment, and defiance of international law. Instead of allying with the courageous proponents of peace and human rights within Palestine and Israel, our government has rewarded consistent abusers of human rights.

RCW: How would you handle enforcement of the Iran nuclear agreement? Would you seek better ties with the Iranian government, or work to further isolate the government in Tehran?

We support the Iran nuclear agreement as a step toward nuclear disarmament. We would  seek better ties with the Iranian government, and take advantage of the moderate Rouhani administration’s openness to greater diplomatic engagement. By engaging the Rouhani administration, we seek to reduce the influence of Iran’s right-wing hardliners, and improve the prospects for human rights in Iran. We have no desire to “obliterate” Iran (as called for by Secretary Clinton), nor would we engage in belligerent rhetoric toward Iran, as Mr. Trump has done.

[Editor’s note: RCW followed up with the Stein campaign on Secretary Clinton’s 2008 remarks regarding a hypothetical Iranian nuclear attack on Israel, but the campaign declined to comment further.]

RCW: The civil war in Syria has displaced millions. How would the Stein administration handle the Syrian refugee crisis?

JILL STEIN: We would stop creating more Syrian refugees by ending the airstrikes and working intensively to establish and maintain a cease-fire. We would send humanitarian aid to Syria, and welcome Syrian families fleeing the civil war as refugees. This is the ethical and moral thing to do, and would signal a paradigm shift in our engagement with the Arab world.

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