To: Editor, New York Times and Margaret Sullivan, Public Editor

[email protected]: Fact-check Jake Sullivan on Normal Relations with Iran

Fact-check Jake Sullivan's claims on establishing normal diplomatic relations with Iran.

Why is this important?

The New York Times reported that Jake Sullivan, a Clinton campaign senior policy adviser, has attacked Bernie Sanders for supporting efforts to establish normal diplomatic relations with Iran. "'Normal relations with Iran right now?' Mr. Sullivan says. 'President Obama doesn’t support the idea. Secretary Clinton doesn’t support that idea. And it’s not at all clear why it is that Senator Sanders is suggesting it.'" [1]

The New York Times merely has to compare Sullivan's statements with the debate transcript to show how misleading Jake Sullivan's attack was. Sanders was responding to a question which cited President Obama saying that the U.S. should re-establish normal diplomatic relations with Iran; and while Sanders agreed with President Obama that the U.S. should work towards normal diplomatic relations with Iran, he did not say that the U.S. should do so "right now." Here is the debate transcript, according to the Washington Post: [2]

MITCHELL: Senator Sanders … The president said today, "it's a good day. It's a good day for diplomacy. It's a time now to restore diplomatic relations for the first time since 1979 and actually re-opened a U.S. Embassy in Tehran."

SANDERS: I think what we've got to do is move as aggressively as we can to normalize relations with Iran. Understanding that Iran's behavior in so many ways is something that we disagree with; their support [of] terrorism, the anti-American rhetoric that we're hearing from of their leadership is something that is not acceptable. On the other hand, the fact that we've managed to reach an agreement, something that I've very strongly supported that prevents Iran from getting a nuclear weapon and we did that without going to war. And that I believe we're seeing a fall in our relationships with Iran is a very positive step. So if your question is, do I want to see that relationship become more positive in the future? Yes. Can I tell that we should open an embassy in Tehran tomorrow? No, I don't think we should. But I think the goal has go to be as we've done with Cuba, to move in warm relations with a very powerful and important country in this world.

"Normal diplomatic relations" and "opening an embassy" are the same thing. That's what "normal diplomatic relations" means. It doesn't mean you're best buddies. It means you have embassies and ambassadors. It's like saying hi to your neighbor when you pass them in the street. You're not necessarily best buddies; you have normal relations. You're on regular speaking terms. That's what we have with Cuba now: embassies and ambassadors.

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References:
1. http://www.nytimes.com/politics/first-draft/2016/01/21/hillary-clinton-knocks-bernie-sanders-on-foreign-policy-experience/
2. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2016/01/17/the-4th-democratic-debate-transcript-annotated-who-said-what-and-what-it-meant/