Trail Mix: Clinton, Kaine and Trump on the Iran Agreement

J Street

With Labor Day behind us, we’re in the home stretch of the campaign. That means Trail Mix is back! And with just two months until Election Day, we’ve been pleased to see the Iran agreement championed from podiums across the country. It’s further evidence that in 2016, running on the Iran agreement is good politics as well as good policy.

On Tuesday night during a candidate forum, Hillary Clinton offered a strong endorsement of the Iran agreement and drew attention to her role in setting the stage for it:

“I put together the coalition. We imposed the sanctions. We got them to the negotiating table. And after I left, we got the agreement. That agreement put a lid on their nuclear weapons program and imposed intrusive inspections. I have said we are going to enforce it to the letter.”

Clinton also forcefully pushed back on the suggestion that Iran was “cheating” the United States:

“I think we have enough insight into what they’re doing to be able to say we have to distrust but verify. What I am focused on is all the other malicious activities of the Iranians — ballistic missiles, support for terrorists, being involved in Syria, Yemen and other places, supporting Hezbollah, Hamas.”

“But here’s the difference, Matt. I would rather, as president, be dealing with Iran on all of those issues without having to worry as much about their racing for a nuclear weapon. So we have made the world safer; we just have to make sure it’s enforced.”

It’s not just Clinton herself touting the Iran agreement. In a major national security speech on Tuesday, vice presidential candidate Tim Kaine emphasized the Iran agreement as proof of Clinton’s strong foreign policy bona fides:

“We have no idea how Donald Trump would handle Iran — and frankly, neither does he… Thanks in part to the global sanctions coalition that Hillary Clinton assembled, and negotiations that she initiated, President Obama ultimately achieved a historic agreement that put a lid on Iran’s nuclear program without firing a single shot.”

Trump, perhaps inadvertently, gave credence to Kaine’s remarks with a series of incoherent statements about Iran during several of public events on Tuesday.

First, he bizarrely claimed that the Iran agreement had turned Iran into a major power:

“We’ve created a monster. If you look at Iran from four, five years ago, they were dying. They had the sanctions. They were being choked to death, and they were absolutely dying. They weren’t going to be much of a threat. They didn’t have anything going, and now they’re a power. We’ve made them a power overnight.”

He then found a way to be even less substantive by mocking Secretary Kerry for breaking his leg during the P5+1 negotiations:

“Can you believe this guy, 73 years old? True. He fell off his bicycle and he broke his leg and he was out of the negotiation for three or four weeks. And they probably did better in the negotiation when he wasn’t there.”

This hard-hitting analysis and sound judgement gave Trump the confidence to make another pronouncement:

“[The Iran deal] is going to destroy Israel — unless I get elected. Then Israel will be just fine.”

The Iran agreement is not going to destroy Israel, but it has surfaced a major difference in worldview between the two presidential candidates. We’ll be on the lookout between now and November 8th with further updates about how it’s playing out.

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