February 19, 2016
Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton sparred yet again over diplomatic relations with Iran in their debate last Thursday, with Sanders shifting noticeably by dropping his call to “normalize” relations with the Islamic Republic that he has espoused in previous debates.
Meeting in Milwaukee for the latest debate in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination, Sanders said improving relations with Iran was more likely to roll back its backing for terrorism than isolating it.
“The idea that we someday maybe have decent relations with Iran, maybe put pressure on them so they end their support for terrorism around the world, yes, that is something I want to achieve,” he said. “And I believe that the best way to do that is to be aggressive, to be principled, but to have the goal of trying to improve relations. That’s how you make peace in the world. You sit down and you work with people, you make demands of people, in this case demanding Iran stop the support of international terrorism.”
Clinton, on the other hand, said Iran must first end backing for terrorism before any normalization process is launched.
“Yes, they have to stop being the main state sponsor of terrorism,” she said. “Yes, they have to stop trying to destabilize the Middle East, causing even more chaos. Yes, they’ve got to get out of Syria. They’ve got to quit sponsoring Hezbollah and Hamas. They have got to quit trying to ship rockets into Gaza that can be used against Israel. We have a lot of work to do with Iran before we ever say that they could move toward normalized relations with us.”
She apparently didn’t notice that Sanders had not repeated his call for “normalization,” only speaking this time of “improving” relations.
Both still spoke as if Tehran seeks full diplomatic relations, exposing their ignorance of the fact that the Islamic Republic has for decades opposed relations unless and until Washington changes its fundamental policies. Iran has even opposed a proposal made a quarter century ago to station American consular officers in Tehran to issue visas to Iranians.
Sanders, who has been reluctant to discuss his Judaism in national forums, appeared to allude to it when he was asked by the PBS moderators about Clinton’s historic potential to become the first woman president. He referred both to his socialist beliefs and his “background.”
“Well, you know, I think, from a historical point of view, somebody with my background, somebody with my views, somebody who has spent his entire life taking on the big money interests, I think a Sanders’ victory would be of some historical accomplishment, as well,” he said.
Sanders became the first Jewish candidate to win a primary when he won the vote in New Hampshire last week.