Trump, Clinton tackle Syria crisis in second debate

At the first debate, on Sept. 26, Trump was repeatedly put on the defensive by Clinton. (Reuters)

US presidential nominees Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump went head to head in the second debate where the Syrian refugee crisis and Muslim-American issues were the focus of the town hall discussions that has been dubbed “the worst televised debate Americans have seen in recent history.”

The debate on Sunday event at a campus in St Louis, Missouri, followed a town-hall format where the audience - all undecided voters chosen by the Gallup Organization - will ask half of the questions on “topics of public interest”.

Trump, facing a party rebellion over his obscene comments about groping women without consent, came out strong against Clinton by promising to investigate and prosecute Clinton if election president.

Audience members could not hold back reactions of applause and shock as the debate lost moments of traditional decorum that is usually expected from US presidential candidates.

Trump, facing a party rebellion over his obscene comments about groping women without consent, came out strong against Clinton. (Reuters)

One of the early questions of the night was asked by a Muslim-American undecided voter who pressed Trump on his rhetoric regarding Islamophobia and his plans to ban Muslims from entering the US.

“Islamophobia is a shame but there is a problem, and we have to sure that Muslims report terror suspects when they see something,” Trump said.

He cited the Orlando, San Bernadino shootings and the World Trade Center attack as examples of “radical Islamic terror” and that both Clinton and US President Barack Obama “won't say or call it the same”.

Clinton responded by saying it was “very short sighted and dangerous to engage in rhetoric about Muslims like Trump is doing”.

Foreign policy on Syria

Clinton backed the establishment of safe zones in Syria, along with efforts to investigate Russia for war crimes committed in support of President Bashar al-Assad.

She said she supported efforts to probe “war crimes committed by the Syrians and the Russians and try to hold them accountable.”

“I hope by the time that I’m president that ISIS will be pushed out of Iraq. But I believe that US ground forces in Syria would be a serious mistake,” she added.

Analysts told Al Arabiya English that there was a stark contrast between Clinton and Trump regarding the issue of Syrian refugees.

“While Clinton appeared to be appealing to Americans to empathize with the suffering of the people of Syria and seemed to imply that the US and perhaps the international community in general has a moral obligation to help the millions of Syrians who have been displaced in the past five years, Trump framed the issue strictly as a national security problem,” Former Political Analyst at the Saudi Embassy in Washington Fahad Nazer told Al Arabiya English.

Trump, meanwhile, accused Gulf-Arab countries of “not carrying their weight” regarding the Syrian refugee crisis. This despite the United Arab Emirates announcing that it was to accepting 15,000 Syrian refugees within five years and Saudi Arabia having received 2.5 million Syrians already and granted them residency and jobs to stay in the country as expatriate citizens instead of refugees.

“According to Trump’s message, this alleged failure stems from politicians lacking his business skills, which he is busy trying to convince American voters will help the U.S. government negotiate superior contracts with allies in the Gulf and beyond if he becomes president,” said Giorgio Cafiero, CEO of Gulf State Analytics, a Washington, DC-based geopolitical risk consultancy.

Clinton said during the debate that sending US ground troops to Syria would be a severe mistake. (Reuters)

Hisham Melhem, a columnist for Al Arabiya News Channel in Washington, DC and correspondent for the Lebanese daily Annahar, said the second debate was “the worst televised US presidential debate the country has seen in recent history.”

Trump at one point during the debate promised to prosecute and jail Clinton if elected president and attacked her multiple times regarding her husband Bill’s past infidelities.

“Total decorum was abandoned. Trump called Clinton a devil and that she deserved to go to jail. These are rhetoric the Americans have never seen from a presidential candidate,” Melhem told Al Arabiya News Channel.

Last Update: Monday, 10 October 2016 KSA 07:53 - GMT 04:53

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