Democratic Candidates Speak Out Against Trump’s Moves in the Middle East

A Saudi arms deal and tensions with Iran spark concern.

President Donald Trump shows a chart highlighting arms sales to Saudi Arabia during a meeting with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in the Oval Office in March 2018.Evan Vucci/AP

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On Friday, amid escalating tensions with Iran, President Donald Trump declared an emergency to bypass Congress to push through an $8 billion arms deal with Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and the United Arab Emirates—a deal that had been stopped by lawmakers before. Simultaneously, Trump ordered the deployment of an additional 1,500 troops to the Middle East to help protect American forces on the ground.

The administration’s recent moves have drawn backlash from Democratic presidential candidates. In an interview with set to air on CBS’s Face the Nation Sunday, former Texas congressman Beto O’Rourke warned that Trump’s actions were “provoking yet another war in the Middle East where we find ourselves already engaged in war in so many countries.”

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) tweeted a letter from dozens of retired US military officials who warned that “a war with Iran would be a disaster for the region and for U.S. security.” 

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) criticized the Trump administration’s workaround for getting arms to “his Saudi buddies,” referencing the assassination of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, which the CIA found had been ordered by the country’s crown prince.   

Other Democratic candidates have been criticizing Trump’s Iran policy. At a campaign stop in New Hampshire earlier this month, former Vice President Joe Biden criticized Trump for having “no foreign policy” and expressed concern about the Iran situation. News of the military buildup in the Middle East prompted South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg to call on Congress to “reassert its war powers.”

In a letter to Congress discussing the Saudi arms deal on Friday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo wrote that “Iranian malign activity” would pose “a fundamental threat to the stability of the Middle East and to American security at home and abroad.” Following the administration’s announcement, Iranian officials lashed out; one military official told the Mizan news agency: “If they commit the slightest stupidity, we will send these ships to the bottom of the sea along with their crew and planes using two missiles or two new secret weapons.” 

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