foreign policy

Would you reopen diplomatic relations with the Syrian government if Bashar al-Assad remains in power?

Yes

Yes

Tulsi Gabbard

U.S. representative, Hawaii

“It is in our national security interests to end our regime change war in Syria,” Gabbard told The Post. “That war is prolonging the suffering of the Syrians, preventing Syrian refugees from returning home, strengthening al-Qaeda and Iran’s influence. Diplomatic relations are not a stamp of approval — they’re necessary to prevent war and resolve conflict. I would reestablish relations with Syria, whoever their president is, and work to bring peace to its long-suffering people.” She drew criticism for a 2017 meeting with the Syrian leader.

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Tulsi Gabbard
Gabbard

Bernie Sanders

U.S. senator, Vermont

“The world and in particular the Syrian people would be far better off without Bashar al-Assad, who is responsible for the mass murder of hundreds of thousands of innocent men, women and children, the forced migration of millions and the collapse of the nation of Syria. It is not up to the United States to topple him, and diplomatic engagement does not imply approval of him or of his activities. If he remains in power, the United States needs to engage with his regime in some fashion,” Sanders told The Post.

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Bernie Sanders
Sanders

Open to it

Open to it

Tim Ryan

U.S. representative, Ohio

“I would be open to considering the restoration of diplomatic relations with the Assad regime, but only after several preconditions have been met,” Ryan told The Post. “Namely, the destruction of its biological weapons stockpile, an immediate end to all human rights abuses and funding of militant organizations in the region, as well as governmental reforms that bring in elements of the opposition.”

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Tim Ryan
Ryan

No

No

Cory Booker

U.S. senator, New Jersey

“Assad must leave office and be held accountable for the war crimes he committed,” Booker told The Post.

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Cory Booker
Booker

Steve Bullock

Governor, Montana

“I would not reopen diplomatic relations with the Assad government,” Bullock told The Post. “Assad has brutally murdered his own people with chemical weapons, and we’ve seen terrorist groups take refuge in the chaos to orchestrate violence around the world. The priority moving forward has to be stability. We need to completely reevaluate the situation and engage both with our allies and adversaries — NATO and Russia — to bring the conflict to a peaceful resolution.”

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Steve Bullock
Bullock

Pete Buttigieg

Mayor, South Bend, Ind.

“I would not reopen diplomatic relations with this Syrian government under Bashar al-Assad,” Buttigieg told The Post. “The United States should take part in negotiations to lead to a comprehensive political settlement that includes genuine progress toward a political transition, an end to all hostilities, protection of civilians and the start of an accountability process. The Assad regime is a state sponsor of terror, has targeted its citizens using chemical weapons, and has overseen large-scale torture and execution of its own people.”

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Pete Buttigieg
Buttigieg

Beto O'Rourke

Former U.S. representative, Texas

“It is imperative that the brutal war in Syria that has killed nearly half a million people and displaced millions of refugees be brought to an end,” an O'Rourke spokesperson told The Post. “Our priority now should be on mobilizing the international community to end the violence, protect civilians and ensure that human rights violators — chief among them Bashar al-Assad — be held accountable for their crimes. As president, Beto would not reopen diplomatic relations with the Syrian government absent meaningful diplomatic progress toward a political transition.”

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Beto O'Rourke
O'Rourke

Joe Sestak

Former U.S. representative, Pennsylvania

“Assad must leave. We should not have any dealings with a brutal dictator who has massacred so many of his own people,” Sestak told The Post.

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Joe Sestak
Sestak

Elizabeth Warren

U.S. senator, Massachusetts

“Assad is a butcher responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands. There is no military-only solution in Syria, but the world must hold him accountable for his violations of international law and violence against the Syrian people,” Warren told The Post. “I would not restore diplomatic relations with the Syrian regime. I do support pragmatic engagement as part of a coordinated multilateral effort -- to seek the best diplomatic solution possible to end the civil war, address the ongoing humanitarian crisis and prevent any spillover consequences from this conflict, including terrorism.”

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Elizabeth Warren
Warren

Marianne Williamson

Author

“No. Assad is a war criminal. Diplomacy is important if it leads to peace but normalizing of diplomatic relations with Assad is not appropriate,” Williamson told The Post.

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Marianne Williamson
Williamson

Unclear/No response

Unclear/No response

Michael Bennet

U.S. senator, Colorado

“The Syrian people face unimaginable violence under the Assad regime. [Bennet] believes the United States must do more to push for a political solution to the conflict in Syria that protects American interests and those of our allies,” a campaign spokesperson told The Post. “The situation in Syria is complicated by Russian and Iranian involvement, and cannot be addressed in isolation from efforts to counter ISIS. Military options alone will not produce a stable political solution. It is clear a broader strategy is needed to address the ongoing crisis.” His campaign had not clarified his position on re-opening diplomatic relations by publication.

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Michael Bennet
Bennet

Joe Biden

Former vice president

“It remains important to end the war in Syria, which continues to produce grave humanitarian suffering, and the United States should be engaged diplomatically with all sides to the conflict toward that end,” Biden told The Post. “It is also imperative to remain engaged to prevent the reemergence of ISIS. Unfortunately, President Trump has ceded the diplomatic initiative in Syria to Russia, Turkey and Iran, while taking a number of steps — including ending aid to the opposition, opposing stabilization assistance and signaling his intent to abandon our allies in the counter-ISIS fight — that limit our ability to deescalate the war and shape a durable political settlement.” He did not provide a direct answer to this question by publication.

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Joe Biden
Biden

Julian Castro

Former mayor, San Antonio

Castro did not answer this question by publication.

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Julian Castro
Castro

Bill de Blasio

Mayor, New York City

De Blasio did not answer this question by publication.

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Bill de Blasio
de Blasio

John Delaney

Former U.S. representative, Maryland

Delaney did not answer this question by publication.

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John Delaney
Delaney

Kamala D. Harris

U.S. senator, California

Harris did not answer this question by publication.

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Kamala Harris
Harris

Amy Klobuchar

U.S. senator, Minnesota

Klobuchar did not answer this question by publication.

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Amy Klobuchar
Klobuchar

Wayne Messam

Mayor, Miramar, Fla.

Messam did not answer this question by publication.

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Wayne Messam
Messam

Tom Steyer

Billionaire activist

Steyer did not answer this question by publication.

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Tom Steyer
Steyer

Andrew Yang

Tech entrepreneur

Yang is open to negotiating with the Syrian government if Bashar al-Assad remains in power, he told The Post. His campaign had not clarified his position on re-opening diplomatic relations by publication.

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Andrew Yang
Yang

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Background Former president Barack Obama’s 2011 declaration that “Assad must go” has come to be seen as emblematic of diplomatic failure. The Syrian leader is still in power eight years later and appears close to winning the long civil war, in part because of help from Russia. The United States has backed rebels who have been unable to unseat Assad, who was once considered a pivotal modern leader, but is now viewed as a war criminal and Russian vassal. Syria remains a powerful regional force and a key to an eventual Middle East peace settlement.

How candidate positions were compiled

The Washington Post sent a detailed questionnaire to every Democratic presidential campaign asking whether it supports various changes to U.S. foreign policy. Candidates with similar stances were organized into groups using a combination of those answers, legislative records, action taken in an executive role, and other public comments, such as policy discussion on campaign websites, social media posts, interviews, town hall meetings and other news reports and surveys. See something we missed? Let us know.

We expect candidates to develop more detailed policy positions throughout the campaign, and this page will update as we learn more about their plans. We also will note if candidates change their position on an issue. At initial publication, this page included major candidates who had announced a run for president and excluded any who had left the race. The Post will contact any additional candidates as they enter the contest and include them here.

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