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Will AIPAC Defeat Obama on Iran?

AIPACby M.J. Rosenberg

Barack Obama and Hassan Rouhani have spoken. And they are on the same page. By that I mean not they agree about the issues dividing the two countries but that they are both ready to move forward, to test each other and see if an agreement is possible.

As tentative as all this is, it is a major breakthrough – as anyone who has paid even a little attention over the past 34 years knows.

However, I do not see this process leading anywhere because the Netanyahu government and its lobby, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), are determined to end the process and have the ability to do it.

They intend to use the United States Congress to pass resolutions that will cause Rouhani to walk away by making clear that Congress will accept nothing short of an Iranian surrender on nuclear issues. Although President Obama wants to negotiate with Iran about ensuring that Iran’s nuclear program is not used to produce weapons, the lobby, which writes the laws imposing sanctions on Iran, insists that Iran give up its nuclear program entirely.

AIPAC listed its demands in a statement last week.

The bottom line was this: Congress must not consider lifting economic sanctions until the Iranians stop uranium enrichment, stop work on installing new centrifuges, allow international inspection of nuclear sites, and move out of the country its stockpile of highly enriched uranium.  In contrast to the administration which, recognizing that Iran (like every other country) has the right to nuclear power for peaceful purposes, AIPAC says that Iran has no such right. (Israel, of course, has a large stockpile of nuclear weapons but, hey, that’s different.)

Not only that, if Iran does not agree to total nuclear surrender, “The United States must support Israel’s right to act against Iran if it feels compelled—in its own legitimate self-defense—to act.”

In other words: the only way for Iran to avoid a military attack is by totally dismantling all its nuclear facilities and potential (to address the “potential,” Israel has repeatedly assassinated Iranian nuclear scientists on Iranian soil). This contrasts with the U.S. view that each step toward compliance by Iran would result in the lifting of some sanctions.

AIPAC is already preparing legislation that will send a clear message to Rouhani: don’t bother reaching out to the West because you will achieve nothing.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who with Robert Menendez (D-NJ), are two of AIPAC’s top lieutenants in the Senate, says that “if nothing changes in Iran, come September or October,“ he will introduce a bill “to authorize the use of military force to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear bomb.” He says that the “only way to convince Iran to halt their nuclear program is to make it clear that we will take it out.”

Senators Menendez, Chuck Schumer (D-NY), John McCain (R-AZ) and Graham also sent letters to President Obama urging “full compliance” by Iran before the United States offers anything. In short, led by AIPAC, the senators want “unconditional surrender” by Iran to avoid attack. This is diplomacy? It sounds more like the way the Germans and later the Russians addressed Czechoslovakia.

But why would anyone think the Senate will pass AIPAC’s war bills. The answer is simply that the midterm elections are coming up and that means Members of Congress need campaign cash. And AIPAC helps provide it.

Remember what AIPAC’s former #2 guy, Steve Rosen (later indicted under the Espionage Act) told New Yorker writer Jeff Goldberg in 2005. Goldberg asked Rosen just how powerful AIPAC is. Goldberg described Rosen’s response.

A half smile appeared on his face, and he pushed a napkin across the table. “You see this napkin?” he said. “In twenty-four hours, we could have the signatures of seventy senators on this napkin."

Obama better be prepared. AIPAC has been pushing war with Iran for a decade. Its bills to achieve it won’t be written on napkins. 

M.J. Rosenberg is Special Correspondent for The Washington Spectator. Previously he served as a Senior Foreign Policy Fellow with Media Matters Action Network, and prior to that worked on Capitol Hill for various Democratic members of the House and Senate for 15 years.


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