The New Hampshire edition of the Democratic presidential debate spawned several proposals about how to fight the Islamic State group, also referred to ISIS, ISIL and Daesh, and deal with the war in Syria. From the creation of regional coalitions to oppose Syrian President Bashar Assad, here's what the candidates had to say about ISIS, Syria and the "quagmire," in Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders' words, of the Middle East.
ISIS or Assad?
Both former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley and Sanders said destroying ISIS should be a priority, over removing Assad. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has said that the tasks needed to be done simultaneously.
An-Anti ISIS Coalition?
Sanders called Saturday for a coalition of Muslim countries to be formed to fight the Islamic State group, and he slammed Saudi Arabia for intervening in the civil war of its southern neighbor, Yemen, rather than participating in the fight against the Islamic State. He also said that Qatar needed to turn its attention to ISIS instead of the World Cup.
Clinton called it "absolutely the wrong policy" to put U.S. troops on the ground in the Middle East in order to fight ISIS and that instead, the U.S. should lead a coalition to fight ISIS, involving tribal sheikhs and Turks.
A No-Fly Zone
One reason to implement a no-fly zone in Syria would be Russia, Clinton said Saturday night. "It gives us some leverage against our conversations with Russia," she said, adding that it would also allow for the creation of safe zones for civilians and reduce the refugee exodus. But the specifics of such a no-fly zone remained unclear.
Once the regime is toppled, or the armed group defeated, what happens next? That question was a major point of contention, particularly between Clinton and Sanders, the latter of whom reiterated several times during the debate that while it may be relatively easy to overthrow a dictator, it's not easy to control what happens afterward. As a result, removing Assad should not be the U.S. priority in the Middle East, he said.
Sanders: "It is very hard to predict the turmoil and instability that happens after you overthrow a dictator."
— Jamelle Bouie (@jbouie) December 20, 2015
Clinton, however, pointed out that Assad's regime had killed an estimated quarter of a million Syrians, and defending ousting him.