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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 3/22/16

The Clinton/Trump AIPAC "Pander-Off"

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Regarding his earlier comments about wealthy Sunni-led oil states taking on a greater regional role in fighting jihadist extremism, such as Islamic State terrorists, Sanders clarified, "Now, I am not suggesting that Saudi Arabia or any other states in the region invade other countries, nor unilaterally intervene in conflicts driven in part by sectarian tensions.

"What I am saying is that the major powers in the region -- especially the Gulf States -- have to take greater responsibility for the future of the Middle East and the defeat of ISIS. ... What I am also saying is that other countries in the region -- like Saudi Arabia, which has the fourth largest defense budget in the world -- has to dedicate itself more fully to the destruction of ISIS, instead of other military adventures like the one it is pursuing right now in Yemen."

Sanders also distanced himself from Hillary Clinton who has urged a U.S. military bombing campaign against the Syrian government, or as she tries to sell the idea as a "safe zone" or a "no-fly zone" though U.S. military officials say either idea would require a major aerial assault on Syria's air force and air defenses.

In contrast, Sanders said, "After five years of brutal conflict, the only solution in Syria will be, in my view, a negotiated political settlement. Those who advocate for stronger military involvement by the U.S. to oust Assad from power have not paid close enough attention to history. That would simply prolong the war and increase the chaos in Syria, not end it."

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Sanders even envisioned working with Russia and Iran to stabilize Syria, defeat ISIS and arrange a transitional government, adding:

"I applaud Secretary Kerry and the Obama administration for negotiating a partial ceasefire between the Assad regime and most opposition forces. The ceasefire shows the value of American-led diplomacy, rather than escalating violence. It may not seem like a lot, but it is. Diplomacy in this instance has had some real success."

Overall, Sanders advocated less reliance on "regime change" strategies that require military force, saying: "In my view, the military option for a powerful nation like ours -- the most powerful nation in the world -- should always be on the table. That's why we have the most powerful military in the world. But it should always be the last resort not the first resort. ...

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"You know it is very easy for politicians to go before the people and talk about how tough we are, and we want to wipe out everybody else. But I think if we have learned anything from history is that we pursue every diplomatic option before we resort to military intervention. And interestingly enough, more often than not, diplomacy can achieve goals that military intervention cannot achieve."

Sanders may have waited too long to give a detailed foreign policy speech, letting Clinton mostly off the hook for her neoconservative tendencies and her support for "regime change" wars in Iraq, Libya and Syria. Most political analysts say he is too far behind in the delegate count to catch up even if his campaign catches on fire in the later primary states, such as California and New York.

Only now has Sanders explained in detail his more nuanced approach toward the Israel-Palestine conflict and his more dovish attitude toward using American military force, in contrast to Clinton's one-sided attitude toward Israel and her hawkish talk about exerting U.S. power.

Indeed, Clinton's neocon-style speech to AIPAC could be the first sign of her long-awaited "pivot to the center," now that she has amassed such a strong lead that she feels she no longer has to worry about the Democratic Party's liberal base.

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Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, Secrecy & Privilege: Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq, can be ordered at secrecyandprivilege.com. It's also available at
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