Hillary Clinton’s campaign on Monday sent out a joint letter signed by several former diplomats and national-security officials who questioned Democratic rival Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-Vermont) plan to defeat ISIS and deal with Iran.
The letter declared that America needs “a Commander in Chief who knows how to protect America and our allies and advance our interests and values around the world.”
It was signed by 10 former officials who worked for multiple administrations. Signatories include Jeremy Bash, the former chief of staff to the CIA director and secretary of defence; Nicholas Burns, a former undersecretary of state whom The Washington Post once described as “one of the most high-profile diplomats at the State Department”; and Lt. Gen. Donald Kerrick, a former deputy national security adviser to President Bill Clinton.
“The stakes are high,” the letter read. “And we are concerned that Senator Sanders has not thought through these crucial national security issues that can have profound consequences for our security.”
It continues: “His lack of a strategy for defeating ISIS — one of the greatest challenges we face today — is troubling. And the limited things he has said on ISIS are also troubling.”
Others have called out some of Sanders’ questionable statements on ISIS (also known as the Islamic State, ISIL, or Daesh) and Iran. The Daily Beast declared on Sunday that Sanders’ suggestion for getting Iran and Saudi Arabia to cooperate on defeating terrorism in the Middle East “is just another example of how little he understands foreign policy.”
Sanders has said that he wants to see Muslim nations leading the fight against ISIS and has repeatedly called on Middle East countries to contribute more in the fight against terrorism.
In a November speech, Sanders said that “countries in the region like Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, UAE — countries of enormous wealth and resources — have contributed far too little in the fight against ISIS.” Later in the same speech, he said that although countries like Iran and Saudi Arabia have “historic disputes,” it’s now time to “put aside those differences to work towards a common purpose of destroying ISIS.”
In another November speech, Sanders said that Muslim countries like Saudi Arabia and Iran should have more troops on the ground to fight ISIS.
“Now what I have said is that I think the folks that have got to be on the ground are the people who are fighting for the soul of Islam,” Sanders said. “That is not American troops, that is troops from the region. They can’t sit it out, they have got to be on the ground. We should be supportive.”
On the campaign trail, Clinton has been touting her plan to defeat ISIS, which she’s divided into three parts. Rather than calling on Muslim nations to lead the fight against the terrorist group, she says the US should take the reigns.
The letter from Clinton’s campaign bashed Sanders’ strategy.
“His call for more Iranian troops in Syria is dangerous and misguided and the opposite of what is needed,” the letter said. “Supporting Iranian soldiers on Israel’s doorstep is a grave mistake. And while we support de-escalation of Sunni-Shia tensions, his argument that Iran and Saudi Arabia — two intense adversaries — should join together in a military coalition is just puzzling.”
The letter also noted Saudi Arabia’s recent decision to cut diplomatic relations with Iran.
Sanders has also called for “normalizing” relations with Iran, which the letter criticised. The senator said during the Democratic presidential debate on Sunday that while he doesn’t want to “reopen a [US] embassy in Tehran tomorrow,” the US’ goal should be “to move in warm relations with a very powerful and important country in this world.”
The Clinton campaign’s letter also called out Sanders for that statement.
“Senator Sanders’ call to ‘move aggressively’ to normalize relations with Iran — to develop a ‘warm’ relationship — breaks with President Obama, is out of step with the sober and responsible diplomatic approach that has been working for the United States, and if pursued would fail while causing consternation among our allies and partners,” the letter read.
The Obama administration last July helped broker a landmark nuclear deal that limits Iran’s ability to acquire a nuclear weapon, but the US still doesn’t have a normalized diplomatic relationship with Iran.
“We need a Commander in Chief who sees how all of these dynamics fit together,” the letter concluded. “Someone who sees the whole chessboard, as Hillary Clinton does.”
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