AIPAC flexes its muscle on Iran and Egypt

AIPAC
Image via RepublicReport.org

The powerhouse Israel lobby group wants more sanctions on Iran and the continuation of U.S. military aid towards Egypt–and Congress has obliged. Over the past week, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) has seen its legislative priorities on U.S. policy in the Middle East sail through Congress.

As Iran prepared to welcome in a new president more amenable to negotiations with the West over its nuclear energy program, AIPAC and its Congressional allies were walking overtime to scuttle any potential diplomatic progress. The House of Representatives passed a new bill yesterday aimed at crippling Iran’s oil exports. There were a handful of Congressional critics of the AIPAC-backed measure, who pointed out that the bill was, as M.J. Rosenberg put it, a “preemptive strike” against Iran’s new president. But they didn’t come close to dissuading the House, which passed the bill by a 400-20 vote.  

The House vote lined up with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s strategy: ratchet up sanctions, prepare for war and deride those who think that Hassan Rouhani, the new Iranian president, presents a diplomatic opportunity. “You should ratchet up the sanction and make it clear to Iran that they won’t get away with it. And if sanctions don’t work and they have to know that you’ll be prepared to take military action, that’s the only thing that will get their attention,” Netanyahu said on CBS’ Face the Nation last month. 

The House legislation was only the latest sanctions bill piled on Iran, as Rosenberg reminds us: 

AIPAC has been drafting and the House and Senate passing AIPAC’s Iran sanctions bills for years. They don’t accomplish anything except punish the Iranian people. After all, if they did “work,” AIPAC wouldn’t keep having to write new sanctions bills. Iran would have surrendered to Israel’s demands on the nuclear issue years ago.

On Egypt, the story was much the same: AIPAC got what it wanted. The Egyptian military’s coup in June prompted a lot of pundits to talk about whether the Obama administration was going to cut off the $1.3 billion in military aid the U.S. delivers to the country annually. But there was never any serious chance the Obama administration was going to do so–and Israel is a key reason why. So when Senator Rand Paul introduced an amendment this week to redirect the Egypt aid to infrastructure projects at home, it was quickly shot down–and the Senators opposing the amendment cited AIPAC and the Israeli government’s insistence that military aid continue to Egypt.

Open Zion’s Ali Gharib runs down the revealing debate here:

[P]eans to Israel’s security came from the five Senators who spoke in opposition to the amendment: Sens. Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Bob Corker (R-TN), Jim Inhofe (R-OK) Lindsey Graham (R-SC), and John McCain (R-AZ), who even got into it with Paul about what American groups spoke with authority on Israel’s interests.

Inhofe, the first to speak, set the tone. “If you have any feelings at all toward our good friends, our best friends in the Middle East—that is Israel—then you cannot consider this amendment. Israel has all of the interests at stake,” he said. “We cannot do this to our friends in Israel and our other allies in the Middle East.” He went on at length. Then Menendez made one of those references to American security when he said the Senate must consider “implications for U.S. national security and for our ally Israel.” Later, he elaborated on those concerns—the Israeli ones, at least: “When you have hundreds of tunnels in the Sinai being used by extremists to send weapons into Gaza to attack Israel, it is about their security.”

And Senator Lindsey Graham underscored the fact that AIPAC was opposed to cutting off aid to Egypt. As Gharib notes, Graham read into the Congressional record the letter AIPAC sent to Senators on the Paul amendment, which states:

We are writing to express our concerns over the Paul amendment to the Transportation/HUD Appropriations bill that would eliminate military assistance and sales to Egypt. We do not support cutting off all assistance to Egypt at this time, as we believe it could increase the instability in Egypt and undermine important U.S. interests and negatively impact our Israeli ally.

There are other important reasons why the U.S. won’t cut off aid to Egypt. The flow of money ensures profits for weapons companies in America, and ensures that the Suez Canal, important for oil, is also a place where the U.S. navy flexes its muscle–which is important to box Iran in. 

All of those concerns–the Suez Canal, weapons contracts and Israel–underline why Secretary of State John Kerry, as Marc Ellis noted, said this week that the Egyptian military stepped in to “restore democracy.” While Kerry’s remarks were impolitic–the U.S. is not supposed to explicitly say it supported the coup–they undoubtedly reflected the alternate universe U.S. officials live in. 

So the Egyptian military and security forces have received the message that there will be no consequences for their crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood. They’ve detained former President Mohamed Morsi, committed two mass killings of Muslim Brotherhood supporters, and are now warning that the prolonged Islamist sit-in protesting the military’s actions will be cleared. Expect more bloodshed soon–all backed up by the military aid the U.S., AIPAC and Israel ensured will continue to flow.

About Alex Kane

Alex Kane is an assistant editor for Mondoweiss and the World editor for AlterNet. Follow him on Twitter @alexbkane.
Posted in Israel Lobby, Israel/Palestine, US Policy in the Middle East, US Politics | Tagged

{ 20 comments... read them below or add one }

  1. US Citizen says:

    I am so tired of this buffoon Netanyahoo, he is an aging dinosaur who’s time has come and gone. When will someone, on “Face the Nation’ or someplace else, somewhere, sometime say to this idiot, “We are going to ratchet up the sanctions and make it clear to you and Israel that you will not continue to get away with it (illegal settlements and the occupation). And if sanctions don’t work then we’ll be prepared to take financial, United Nations, and ICC action, that’s the only thing that will get your attention”.

    The stink of the occupation is getting to be to much now. The USA once a respected country is quickly catching up to Israel. You align yourself with garbage and you end up being garbage.

  2. seanmcbride says:

    # AIPAC ops

    1. AIEF (American Israel Education Foundation)
    2. Barack Obama
    3. Barney Frank
    4. Chuck Schumer
    5. David Axelrod
    6. David Makovsky
    7. Dennis Ross
    8. Dick Cheney
    9. Eric Cantor
    10. Haim Saban
    11. Harry Reid
    12. Jane Harman
    13. Joe Lieberman
    14. John Hagee
    15. John McCain
    16. Larry Franklin
    17. Lee Feinstein
    18. Lindsey Graham
    19. Martin Indyk
    20. Michael Lewis
    21. Mitt Romney
    22. Nancy Pelosi
    23. Newt Gingrich
    24. Rahm Emanuel
    25. Rick Santorum
    26. Sheldon Adelson
    27. Steny Hoyer
    28. WINEP (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
    29. Wolf Blitzer

    This needs to be fleshed out.

    Zionism — Jewish nationalism — is now a much bigger factor in American politics than conservatism or liberalism. Both the Democratic and Republican Parties are under the control of AIPAC and its agenda of endless foreign wars and political conflict on behalf of Israel.

    • seanmcbride says:

      Some important additions to that list of AIPAC ops:

      1. Bill Clinton
      2. David Steiner
      3. Hillary Clinton
      4. Howard Kohr
      5. Joe Biden
      6. John Boehner
      7. John Kerry
      8. Keith Weissman
      9. Malcolm Hoenlein
      10. Michael Oren
      11. Mickey Kantor
      12. Norman Brownstein
      13. Robert Wexler
      14. S. Daniel Abraham
      15. Steven Grossman
      16. Steven Rosen

      And more background from Wikipedia:

      AIPAC has a wide base of supporters both in and outside of Congress. Support among congressional members includes a majority of members of both the Democratic and Republican Parties. AIPAC’s 2011 Policy Conference included the attendance of approximately 2/3 of the US Senate and House of Representatives, including President Barack Obama, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, and Speaker of the House John Boehner. The annual Policy Conference is second only to the State of the Union address for the number of federal officials in attendance at an organized event.

      Many political leaders have addressed AIPAC conferences, including past Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, Vice Presidents Dick Cheney and Joe Biden, House Minority Whip Eric Cantor and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. Other speakers have included prominent Senators such as John Kerry, Joe Lieberman, John McCain, as well as and current and former members of the leadership of both parties in Congress, and current and former Prime Ministers of Israel.

      link to en.wikipedia.org

      Particularly note the mention of JOHN KERRY among the list of guest speakers — who just appointed Martin Indyk to manage Israeli/Palestinian negotiations.

    • ivri says:

      But if you want to be honest with yourself you would be asking the question: how come? How is it that all those very many people support Israel in such a dedicated manner? It is too easy to try the tired and simplistic explanations, which are really no more than slogans, that the Zionists buy everybody that moves around (but how they can they that with to those proud and rich oilmen in Texas for instance, which happen to be the most ardent supporters of Israel?); That it`s all about getting Jewish votes (but there are entire regions with almost no Jew there); and etc., etc., other “explanations” that are really no more than pure propaganda and hate-speak but makes no logical sense whatsoever. And all that is taking place for decades now in a country with the freest and most prolific media that ever existed (and please don`t try the yet another ridiculous assertion that the Zionists control it all).
      So, if you are really ready for a honest examination of the issue you must first conclude that something deeper is going on here. I`ll be ready to help in offering reasonable answers here (it is not entirely trivial) but I rather let you try that first on your own.

    • ziusudra says:

      Re.: SeanMcBride,
      …. Zionism – Jewish nationalism- …….
      Is Imperialism – US nationalism- ?
      Zionism & Imperialism are Ideologies.
      Hence, Zionism is Imperialism.
      ziusudra
      PS Thanks, agree with you that with Pres. Johnson
      began their connivance.

  3. seanmcbride says:

    Must read:

    article; Jeff Klein; How AIPAC Rules; Counterpunch; May 31-June 2, 2013 link to counterpunch.org

    So the power of AIPAC derives not fundamentally from Israel’s vast popularity. Although opinion polls do regularly confirm the public supports Israel at a much higher level than the Palestinians (no surprise), substantial pluralities still prefer that the US stay neutral in the conflict. I have seen no polling about support for the billions in military aid to Israel each year. It is hard to imagine that the majority response would be anything but negative in the light of cuts to funding other popular government programs. Not surprisingly the Lobby prefers “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” on the question of yearly$billions for Israel.

    The apparent dominance of the Israel Lobby in Congress stems from what I would call “asymmetric politics”. AIPAC represents the power of a well-funded and single-issue political machine. It is quick to punish recalcitrant legislators – or to reward good behavior with dollars and campaign support from the many PACS and rich donors who take its direction.

    Seen in this light, members of Congress – ever averse to risk, as are all elected officials – are behaving rationally when they defer to the Israel Lobby. They pay little or no price for playing ball with AIPAC and risk a backlash with no apparent reward if they don’t.

    This is the way asymmetric politics works for the Israel Lobby. It is the dynamic that puts our country in opposition to most of the world with respect to International Law and peace in the Middle East. And it may yet succeed in getting us into a war with Iran.

    • @Sean – - What would polls show, if Americans knew how many trillions of dollars have been spent by the US to “protect” Israel? Meaaning, help Israel continue to grow its illegal colonies in the West Bank.

  4. RE: “[P]eans to Israel’s security came from the five Senators who spoke in opposition to the amendment: Sens. Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Bob Corker (R-TN), Jim Inhofe (R-OK) Lindsey Graham (R-SC), and John McCain (R-AZ)” ~ Alex Kane

    FROM MAPLIGHT.ORG:

    Pro-Israel contributions

    • Top Senate Recipients Funded

    Recipient | Amount
    Mark Kirk $925,379
    John McCain $771,012
    Mitch McConnell $430,925
    Carl Levin $346,478
    Robert Menéndez $344,670
    Richard Durbin $327,212
    Kirsten Gillibrand $326,937
    Mary Landrieu $296,409
    Benjamin Cardin $267,542
    Harry Reid $261,708
    Bill Nelson $259,250
    Charles Schumer $248,149
    Timothy Kaine $245,820
    Barbara Boxer $245,179
    Ron Wyden $222,431
    Sherrod Brown $221,891
    Claire McCaskill $214,271
    Robert Casey $192,550
    [CONTINUED AD NAUSEAM, INCLUDING: Bob Corker $114,770; Lindsey Graham $84,515 & James Inhofe $60,000]

    SOURCE – link to maplight.org

    ● A HIGHLY RELEVANT QUOTATION: “You can’t use tact with a Congressman! A Congressman is a hog! You must take a stick and hit him on the snout!” ~ From ‘The Education of Henry Adams’, By Henry Brooks Adams, 1838-1918 (American journalist-historian-academic-novelist; grandson of President John Quincy Adams; great-grandson of President John Adams)
    The Education of Henry Adams by Henry Adams – link to gutenberg.org
    The Education of Henry Adams: An Autobiography (Google eBook) – link to books.google.com

    ● AND, YET ANOTHER HIGHLY RELEVANT QUOTATION: “You tell me whar a man gits his corn pone, en I’ll tell you what his ‘pinions is.” ~ Mark Twain (Meaning that one’s opinions can be told based on where that person got their bread.)
    SOURCE – link to grammar.about.com

  5. Citizen says:

    DICK AND JANE continue their lives of sports & shopping at the mall, and quiet desperation. They have yet to devote a brain cell to how AIPAC is sucking up their meager blood and treasure. Both corporate America and US main media string them along by omission, when they don’t use outright hasbara & “free market” Horatio Algier BS.They are eve aware of the CBO’s report on the last 30 years rising income gap.

  6. Kick out these lobby groups. These groups are obviously steered by a foreign state, netanyahu snap his fingers and the lobby do the formalities here on US soil.

    As usual we see Israel fisters support heinous acts like supporting coup and warmongering.

    Only Israel benefit from this, but the corrupt congress and house rep. are too corrupt to understand it seems.

  7. Hostage says:

    So the Egyptian military and security forces have received the message that there will be no consequences for their crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood.

    Senator Rand Paul’s amendment to the Transportation/HUD Appropriations bill doesn’t really have anything to do with the coup provisions of the Leahy Act. That’s part of the State Department And Foreign Operations Appropriations Statute. I haven’t seen any indication that Leahy is ready to give Gen. Sisi more latitude than Gen. Tantawi received when it comes to holding elections, adopting a constitution, and turning over the reigns of government to the civilian sector.

    The notion that Israel or AIPAC needs a military dictatorship next door runs counter to the incessantly repeated talking point that Israel has to be able to defend itself, by itself – using its own 3.5 billion per-year allotment.

  8. Aipac’s intention in pushing for yet more sanctions against Iran, is to block any improvement in America’s relations with Iran. If possible.

  9. Tuyzentfloot says:

    So the new bill means the US has to teach China a lesson if China dares to keep importing Iranian oil. If you just forget about Iran for a moment, I think the US is building up a really bad reputation for itself. The fact that congress doesn’t seem to mind pissing of other countries is not just a lobby thing, it’s an imperialistic attitude thing.

  10. Citizen says:

    Latest update on the wending congressional bill (written by AIPAC, same as Iran sanctions legislation) covering “major strategic ally” designation for Israel, coupled with non-reciprocal visa waiver:

    Aug 01, 2013 — New Cosponsor

    H.R. 938: United States-Israel Strategic Partnership Act of 2013

    New Cosponsor: Rep. Mac Thornberry [R-TX13]

    There are 338 cosponsors as of August 3

  11. Citizen says:

    Total reps in the House: 435
    97 left to cosign this bill for AIPAC to achieve a perfect score of 100% of the House in AIPAC’s pocket.

  12. Citizen says:

    FNC, Sunday, Aug 4:

    Interview of Joel C Rosenberg:
    New Iranian Prez is a wolf in sheep’s clothing: Quotes alleged hate Israel statement of new Prez’s son. Big issue in ME: how close is Iran to nuke bomb & how close is Israel to launching a preemptive strike on Iran? Obama is resisting Congress efforts to put more sanctions on Iran, which sends the wrong message.

    Thanks (No follow-up questions from Fox host)

  13. Great post, Citizen. Aipac et al are worried new Iranian president may enable an improvement in America’s relations with Iran. Something to be blocked.

  14. rtdrury says:

    Analysis of Merkan foreign policy, and Merkan policy in general, is moot when delivered in a frame that fails to communicate how the people can change that policy. The people can change federal policy by shifting our attention, trust, and value, to enterprises under our own control, our local economies, effectively cutting off the power lines feeding the elite parasites our local energy. So the federal tax revenues dry up. Lesser quality talent is devoted to the elite enterprise. I have no idea why anyone who is in solidarity with the people would care what the elites are up to except for making adjustments in the people’s strategy to achieve global independence from elite rule.