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As we approach the presidential election in November, Weekend Edition is seeking your questions about issues and candidates in a new segment called Reporter Hotline. This week, we answer inquiries about foreign policy and U.S. involvement in the Middle East and Afghanistan.
On U.S. options if Israel strikes Iran
Shane Eudy of Asheville, N.C.: "I think we saw with the Iraq War that we need to be absolutely sure and know what we're getting into if we send our forces into another country. So, if Israel goes it alone, I would like to see the U.S. think very, very hard about whether we support Israel."
NPR's Michele Kelemen: " 'Give this more time' is the message coming from the Obama administration to Israel. The problem for Israel is that they see this nuclear program in Iran as an existential threat. They have a very different clock ticking than we do from here.
"So if Israel does go ahead and strike, the U.S. is going to be brought into it one way or another, even if it's just managing the aftermath. ... And the U.S. is a strong ally of Israel, so if they ask for U.S. help, any president is going to be hard-pressed to deny that."
On plans to draw down the war in Afghanistan
Steve Cohen of Conway, Ark.: "We don't seem to know when enough is enough. Can we afford this much longer, in terms of personnel, money, political stress, world opinion of the United States? I could go on and on."
NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson: "The U.S. is in the midst of a drawdown at the moment. In fact, the surge that President Obama sent over a couple of years ago to deal with the growing Taliban threat, most of those troops are coming home in the coming days or weeks. And then on top of that, you have all of the international troops here with the NATO-led coalition ending their mandate in about 27 months, at the end of 2014.
"So the focus really has shifted here from nation building to sort of turning things over to the Afghans. And many Afghans are quite concerned that they're not really going to be ready, that there are still a lot of issues that remain with ... having the security forces able to handle the responsibility of taking care of their own country."
On negotiating with new governments
Patty Ryan of San Francisco: "I'm just wondering how the candidates would balance promoting democracy with the fact that this can often mean other countries will elect leaders unfriendly to America?"
Nelson: "It's been very confusing, I think, for the American government ... but it's also important to remember that the Muslim Brotherhood and other groups, they have to perform. It's not just about being angry at the U.S. or creating friction with the U.S., if you will. They have to be able to deliver for their people. And all these countries still very much depend on U.S. funding and U.S. support. ... So I think that will hopefully provide some balance."
Kelemen: "Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, when she spoke about the deaths of these four Americans in Libya this week, she talked about how 'the people of Egypt, Libya, Yemen and Tunisia did not trade the tyranny of a dictator for the tyranny of a mob.' So I think there's also a lot of frustration on this end and a growing understanding that the U.S. is not in the driver's seat in any of these transitions."
The state Senate's Republican leader and teachers unions agree on at least one thing: Standardized tests for kindergarteners are a problem.