This is tragic. “Democrats, AIPAC jeopardize Iran talks,” reports Foreign Policy. Much of the opposition to lifting sanctions comes from liberals: Ed Markey of Massachusetts, and Patty Murray of Washington (fifth most liberal Senator, according to National Journal rankings in 2012). But then Murray is the head of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.
Some of FP’s report, by Yochi Dreazen and John Hudson:
The White House has already signaled a potential openness to that kind of deal, but a wide array of powerful Democrats — including the top members of both the Senate and House foreign affairs committees — strongly oppose lifting any of the existing sanctions on Iran unless Tehran offers concessions that go far beyond anything Zarif has talked about in Geneva. The American Israel Public Affairs Committee, one of the most powerful lobbies in Washington, has also promised to do everything in its power to keep the punitive measures in place….
“If the president were to ask for a lifting of existing sanctions it would be extremely difficult in the House and Senate to support that,” Rep. Steve Israel (D-NY), chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, told The Cable. “I’m willing to listen but I think that asking Congress to weaken and diminish current sanctions is not hospitable on Capitol Hill.”
“I’d say no,” said Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) when asked if he’d accept a presidential plea to lift sanctions….
Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey said the U.S. “should not relax the sanctions one inch while Iran’s intentions are still unknown.”…Still, lawmakers like [New Jersey Democrat] Menendez, Murray and [Illinois Republican] Kirk show no signs of softening their positions. Their demands to maintain the current measures reflect, in part, the success of a concerted lobbying campaign by AIPAC. The pro-Israel group has sat out some recent potential fights over large-scale U.S. weapons sales to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates in order to focus all of its energy on Iran. During its annual conference in March, AIPAC sent hundreds of volunteers to Capitol Hill to personally lobby lawmakers from their home states to support tough measures on Iran. It has also drafted templates of letters lawmakers could send the White House under their own names calling for continued sanctions on Iran.
Iran is one of the few issues that bind Democrats and Republicans, so AIPAC is in some ways preaching to the choir. [Representative Steve] Israel said he hadn’t been lobbied by the group, but he said it had no reason to.
The piece states that House supporters of the president’s opening to Iran have been quiet because they’re working on the gov’t shutdown deal. More than a quarter of House members signed a bipartisan letter urging talks with Iran last July.