South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham speaking at an AIPAC conference
(Photo: Reuters/Jonathan Ernst)
The American-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the number one Israel lobby group, likes to operate quietly. The group lobbied in favor of the Iraq war, but doesn’t want anyone to talk about that (see Phil Weiss’ excellent post on that here). Now they’re lobbying for a war on Iran through a hawkish Senate resolution–but people are talking about it.
The Senate resolution was introduced last week by Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, and has 35 co-sponsors, with Senator Joseph Lieberman also strongly backing the bill. The resolution is only the latest tool used by Iran hawks to pressure the Obama administration into taking a strong stance against Iran. The major problems with the bill, as Mitchell Plitnick points out in Souciant magazine, were expressed by the National Iranian-American Council:
As drafted, the resolution confuses U.S. “red lines” and significantly lowers the threshold for going to war…
As drafted, the resolution sets conditions for going to war without stating that it is not an authorization of force…
As drafted, the resolution takes options off the table for preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons…
In essence, critics of the bill are saying it provides a backdoor to war.
AIPAC’s fingerprints are all over the bill. And while the powerful lobby group does not want to be seen as pushing for war, that’s exactly what they’re doing.
Robert Wright called out AIPAC’s role in a much-talked about blog post for the Atlantic:
Late last week, amid little fanfare, Senators Joseph Lieberman, Lindsey Graham, and Robert Casey introduced a resolution that would move America further down the path toward war with Iran. The good news is that the resolution hasn’t been universally embraced in the Senate.
As Ron Kampeas of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency reports, the resolution has “provoked jitters among Democrats anxious over the specter of war.” The bad news is that, as Kampeas also reports, “AIPAC is expected to make the resolution an ‘ask’ in three weeks when up to 10,000 activists culminate its annual conference with a day of Capitol Hill lobbying…”
The resolution defines keeping Iran from getting a nuclear weapons “capability” as being in America’s “vital national interest,” which is generally taken as synonymous with “worth war.” And, though this “sense of Congress” resolution is nonbinding, AIPAC will probably seek unanimous Senate consent, which puts pressure on a president. Friedman says this “risks sending a message that Congress supports war and opposes a realistic negotiated solution or any de facto solution short of stripping Iran of even a peaceful nuclear capacity.”
What’s more, says [Lara Friedman of Americans for Peace Now], the non-binding status may be temporary. “Often AIPAC-backed Congressional initiatives start as non-binding language (in a resolution or a letter) and then show up in binding legislation. Once members of Congress have already signed on to a policy in non-binding form, it is much harder for them to oppose it when it shows up later in a bill that, if passed, will have the full force of law.”
Jim Lobe has more on the AIPAC war push here.
This bill will get massive support from Congress, especially in an election year and while AIPAC’s annual conference is going on. But, the fact that the Atlantic is exposing AIPAC’s war-mongering should be seen as progress. With Occupy AIPAC heading into town as well, and J Street holding its conference soon after, there’s a chance a counter-narrative against a war with Iran will get more play.