Bernie Sanders on Iran

Bernie views Iran as a major player in the Middle East and believes that diplomatic relations between Iran and the West are crucial for both regional stability and the long term security of the U.S. and its allies. Furthermore, Bernie believes that Iranian nuclear ambitions must be held in check and the only way to accomplish this is through clearly defined restrictions verified by international observers.

Nuclear-Free Iran

Keeping the Iranian nuclear program in check with international observers is greatly preferable to the lack of oversight that has been the status quo.

Without a nuclear deal, Iran can continue to rapidly develop its nuclear program with few checks in place.

From 2007 to 2013, Iran exponentially increased its uranium holdings and operating centrifuges. Bernie views a nuclear-armed Iran as a threat and, therefore, supports the recent nuclear deal that will reduce Iran’s nuclear capabilities.

What is Bernie’s number one priority when it comes to Iran?

Bernie, in April of 2015, stated: “It is imperative that Iran not get a nuclear weapon.” That is why Bernie supports a nuclear deal with Iran. Speaking to Vox, Bernie said:

“I applaud the President … trying to reach out an agreement with the P5+1 in Iran, to try to figure out how we can prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, which to me is an absolute imperative, but you do it in a way that doesn’t go to war.”

While the agreement needs to be looked over with careful scrutiny, Bernie says, “What the president has tried to do is to make it certain that we have a verifiable agreement that prevents Iran from getting a nuclear weapon.” Bernie has hailed the Iran nuclear deal as a victory “for diplomacy over saber-rattling.”

But some say that the Iran nuclear deal will pave their way to get a bomb. What is actually in it?

Far from paving the way for a bomb, the Iran nuclear deal greatly reduces Iran’s nuclear stockpile and facilities, and increases the amount of time it would take for Iran to create a nuclear weapon if the agreement were to fall apart. While the nuclear deal with Iran is a comprehensive and lengthy agreement, below are a few key components of the deal to clear up any confusion:

  • Breakout Time: This is the amount of time it takes to produce enough highly enriched uranium in order to make a bomb. Pre-deal Iran’s breakout time was estimated at about 2 to 3 months. The deal seeks to push that breakout time to one year.
  • Uranium Enrichment & Nuclear Stockpile: Iran produces uranium and has the ability to enrich it using its over 19,000 centrifuges, after this deal Iran’s centrifuges will be cut down to about a third. For the next 15 years Iran has agreed to not enrich uranium above 5 percent, which is the level necessary for nuclear power plants. Their stockpile (the amount of enriched uranium stored) will also be reduced by 97 percent.
  • Inspections: Bernie and President Obama understand this deal is not dependent on trust, but rather the ability to inspect and verify Iran’s compliance. Under the deal the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) will have unprecedented access to enrichment facilities in Natanz and Fordow, centrifuge assembly facilities, storage facilities, uranium mines and reactors.
  • Sanctions: In return for their compliance Iran will see a temporary lifting of certain economic sanctions. However, this relief is reversible and will “snap back” into place if Iran does not follow the rules of the deal.

More details in the below infographic:


So Bernie believes we must prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon. What does he think about nuclear disarmament in general?

Bernie has stated unequivocally the we must limit nuclear proliferation and work towards a safer world free of nuclear weapons:

“I strongly agree with President Obama’s call for ‘a world without nuclear weapons.’  As has been made apparent by recent provocative actions by North Korea and Iran, the threat of nuclear weapons is a present threat to the security of America and the world.  We must limit nuclear proliferation, now and in the future.  We must end the production of weapons-grade uranium.  And we must heed what President Obama has called our ‘moral responsibility’ to lead the way toward reducing, and eventually eliminating, nuclear weapons.”

It is with this vision in mind that Bernie supports the Iran nuclear pact. Similarly, Bernie has been working to reduce nuclear weapons stockpiles around the world. In 2015, Bernie co-sponsored the Smarter Approach to Nuclear Expenditures Act, which would reduce the nuclear weapons budget by $100 billion over the next ten years.


Bernie stands with the majority of Americans in supporting diplomacy as the best method to reach a solution to Iran’s nuclear threat. He sees military action as the least favorable approach, noting it’s “imperative that we do everything we can to reach a diplomatic solution and avoid never-ending war in the Middle East.”

In order to prevent another decade-long war in the Middle East, the United States and its allies must quickly and safely address Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

Iran’s nuclear ambitions must be curtailed, and the best way to accomplish that is through diplomacy — and most Americans agree:


Why should we address this issue through diplomacy?

Not only do most most Americans support the Iran nuclear deal, many American and Israeli security experts also do. In addition, Americans largely view military action as an undesirable response to Iran’s nuclear program.

Bernie agrees with the American people, and the security experts and diplomats who have endorsed the deal. While Bernie has not ruled out using military force, he does believe that war is the “very last option”.

Finally, even when dealing with hostile nations, diplomatic relations are important. Even at the height of the Cold War, the U.S. held talks and signed treaties with the U.S.S.R. Despite the U.S.S.R. being openly hostile to the U.S., we were able to temper those hostilities by signing agreements including the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (ABMT) and Strategic Arms Limitations Talk (SALT), which limited nuclear armaments, increasing the security of both nations.

Beyond the nuclear issue, how else has Bernie engaged with Iran?

The Supreme Leader of Iran, Ayatollah Khamenei, stated that “anyone who dies in this holy struggle against World Zionism” would be given the status as a martyr. In response, Bernie joined as a co-sponsor Senate Concurrent Resolution 11, denouncing the anti-Semitic rhetoric of the Iranian government.

Bernie also voted to condemn Iran for undemocratically controlling its elections and ignoring human rights abuses in House Resolution 976.

What role does Bernie see for the President in crafting foreign policy?

Speaking to MSNBC, Bernie said, “Well, very simply, the President of the United States is the person, whether he is a Democrat or a Republican, who leads us in foreign policy… the function of the Senate is advice and consent.”

As a senator, Bernie has spoken out against efforts to undermine the president’s foreign policy objectives, saying that it is “an outrage that my Republican colleagues are trying to sabotage [the Iranian nuclear agreement].”