Sanders and Clinton Face-Off Over Future of Iran Relationship

Democrats Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton sparred Thursday over a timetable for further openings in the relationship with Iran, with Clinton arguing in favor of holding out for more concessions from the country, while Sanders pushed to move forward “as quickly as we can.”

The two presidential hopefuls are strong supporters of the Iran nuclear deal – and as secretary of state under President Obama, Clinton oversaw the beginnings of the nuclear talks. But the disagreement onstage at the MSNBC debate in Durham, New Hampshire Thursday highlighted a real difference in how each candidate would manage what comes next.

Clinton took credit Thursday for the role she played in arranging the nuclear agreement, which was implemented last month. But she pointed to Iran’s role backing proxy armies through the Middle East, including inside Syria, where it has also inserted its own fighters.

“You have to get action for action,” Clinton said of the prospect of opening relations with Iran. “I believe we have to take this step by step.”

Sanders likened the renewed U.S. relationship with Iran to the long thawing of relations between the U.S. and Cuba.

“Guess what? Change has come,” Sanders said of Cuba, with whom the U.S. restored diplomatic ties over the summer.

Sanders said that Iran’s role as a state sponsor of terrorism needs to be addressed, and relations with Iran should not be restored Immediately. But, he added, “I would like to see us move forward and hopefully someday that will happen.”