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‘Foreign Policy’ blames AIPAC for warmongering Iran bill, but Maddow won’t tell you that

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Rachel Maddow, MSNBC

Rachel Maddow, MSNBC

And you thought politics stops at the water’s edge? Two Democratic senators, Robert Menendez and Chuck Schumer (along with Republican warhorse Mark Kirk), are circulating a bill that would hamstring the Obama administration’s ability to negotiate with Iran by broadening sanctions. And the bill would compel the U.S. to stand behind Israel if it chooses to attack Iran. Shades of the follies of World War I.

Ali Gharib at Foreign Policy breaks the story and is explicit that AIPAC seems to be calling the tune. Jim Lobe calls it the “wag the dog” bill as it would compel the US to join an Israeli war. Finally, I quote Rachel Maddow on the congressional efforts to brake the Obama administration, and she won’t touch the Israel lobby issue. First Gharib:

The legislation would broaden the scope of the sanctions already imposed against Iran, expanding the restrictions on Iran’s energy sector to include all aspects of its petroleum trade and putting in place measures targeting Iran’s shipping and mining sectors. The bill allows Obama to waive the new sanctions during the current talks by certifying every 30 days that Iran is complying with the Geneva deal and negotiating in good faith on a final agreement, as well as meeting other conditions such as not sponsoring or carrying out acts of terrorism against U.S. targets.

In accordance with goals laid out frequently by hard-liners in Congress and the influential lobbying group the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the bill sets tough conditions for a final deal, should one be reached with Iranian negotiators. Among those conditions is a provision that only allows Obama to waive new sanctions, even after a final deal has been struck, if that deal bars Iran from enriching any new uranium whatsoever….

The bill includes a non-binding provision that states that if Israel takes “military action in legitimate self-defense against Iran’s nuclear weapons program,” the U.S. “should stand with Israel and provide, in accordance with the law of the United States and the constitutional responsibility of Congress to authorize the use of military force, diplomatic, military, and economic support to the Government of Israel in its defense of its territory, people, and existence.” That language mirrors that introduced in February by another Iran hawk, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC). With the support of AIPAC, the Graham resolution, a non-binding bill, was passed by the Senate in April.*…

“It would kill the talks, invalidate the interim deal to freeze Iran’s nuclear program, and pledge U.S. military and economic support for an Israel-led war on Iran,” said Jamal Abdi, the policy director for the Washington-based National Iranian American Council, a group that supports diplomatic efforts to head off the Iranian nuclear crisis. “There is no better way to cut Iranian moderates down, empower hardliners who want to kill the talks, and ensure that this standoff ends with war instead of a deal.”

Jim Lobe also has the story, and copies of the legislation. He calls it a “wag the dog” act, for its military implications.

Copies of the bill that Sens. Kirk, Menendez, and Schumer hope to introduce in the Senate this week — presumably to be pressed for passage after the Christmas/New Year recess — are circulating today around Washington, and, as predicted, it is clearly designed to sabotage last month’s first-phase deal (the Joint Plan of Action) on Tehran’s nuclear program, as well as prospects for a final agreement. The bill is called the Iran Nuclear Weapon Free Act of 2013, although I would prefer to call it the Wag the Dog Act of 2014, given the implicit discretion it gives to Bibi Netanyahu to commit the U.S. to war with Iran. Its key provisions, as described by the sponsors, are laid out at the end of this post.

On to Maddow. Last week the MSNBC host talked about Congressional efforts to undermine the deal and never mentioned AIPAC. She hosted Joe Cirincione of the Ploughshares Fund and continually described Congress as an interfering,

MADDOW: Last month, President Obama announced a historic deal with Iran….

The only problem is Congress. Lawmakers in both houses on both sides of the aisle have been saying, oh, forget this deal, we hate this deal. We want more sanctions on Iran now.


If they succeeded, if they passed new sanctions, the new agreement with Iran would be off immediately. Iran has been very clear on that. If  new sanctions passed, the entire thing would be lost as soon as they passed.


Now, everybody who likes that there`s this deal with Iran, a potential diplomatic solution to this vexing problem, everybody`s been saying, hey, Congress, don`t screw this up. Secretary of State John Kerry was trying to persuade Congress, do not screw this up. Do not to scuttle the agreement by messing with and trying to pass sanctions that would absolutely kill the

My sense is that Congress really does want to pass new
sanctions on Iran, they might very well have enough support in both Houses to do it. And that if they had done it, this deal with Iran, this fragile first step deal with Iran would have been kaput immediately. Is that true?

CIRINCIONE: That is exactly right. It`s a deal explicitly rules out any new sanctions, it`s a deal negotiated between the U.N. Security Council and Germany and Iran. So it`s a seven-nation deal. It explicitly says no  new sanctions are allowed. So, if the Congress passes new sanctions it would kill the deal…. if you can solve North Korea, you`re really looking at the end of proliferation, this wave that has spread over the last 68 years since Hiroshima might actually have crested and come to a full halt. That is historic.

MADDOW: Could be done with diplomacy, as long as Congress can`t get its act together to screw it up. I love that we`re dependent on that at this point. Keep tripping, keep tripping. Amazing.

Update: The Israel lobbyist Michael Steinhardt has joined the fray, publishing a full-page ad from Elie Wiesel in yesterday’s NYT and today’s Wall Street Journal. The ad says: “Iran must not be allowed to remain nuclear.” And:

The ads were paid for by Jewish philanthropist Birthright Israel co-founder Michael Steinhardt and were produced by Rabbi Shmuley Boteach’s  This World: The Values Network…

[per Wiesel statement:] “from the time of the founding fathers America has always stood up to tyrants. Our nation is morally compromised when it contemplates allowing a country calling for the destruction of the State of Israel to remain within reach of nuclear weapons.”

Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of

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45 Responses

  1. marc b. on December 19, 2013, 9:45 am

    absolutely duplicitous.

    if Israel takes “military action in legitimate self-defense against Iran’s nuclear weapons program,” the U.S. “should stand with Israel and provide, in accordance with the law of the United States and the constitutional responsibility of Congress to authorize the use of military force, diplomatic, military, and economic support to the Government of Israel in its defense of its territory, people, and existence.”

    so US congress people are pledging to commit American lives in defense of the inventors of the ‘preemptive counterattack’, dodgy farsi translations, and paranoid narcissism, this while the frothing Netanyahu is still on the throne. they do know that impure thoughts in Shiraz constitute an existential threat to Israel? or the ability to fight back?

    PS maddow is just plain creepy. like a Barbie doll extruded with the perfect chemical proportions of this polymer and that to reach a pre-approved level of stylish ‘newsyness’. bletch.

    • on December 19, 2013, 10:37 pm

      like a barbie doll? don’t insult barbie!
      maddow is the most reprehensible woman or whatever it really is i’ve ever seen on tv. i first was interested but after awhile i just couldn’t stand her anymore. like a stomach ache.
      i have a great idea for dealing with the prison overpopulation problem.
      just have the convict be forced to watch maddow at home; they’ll be running to break down the walls of the jail to get back in.

      • piotr on December 20, 2013, 5:35 am

        No cigar for that idea. We have a thing called Constitution and cruel and unusual punishment is not allowed.

  2. American on December 19, 2013, 10:22 am

    Some Might Call It Treason – High Crimes and Misdemeanors by Congress

    Philip Giraldi, a former CIA officer, is a contributing editor to The American Conservative and executive director of the Council for the National Interest.

    ”The problem with the treason definition applicable in the United States is that it does not cover what we are seeing right now, something that the Founders could never have anticipated. I am referring to a concerted “betrayal of trust” by a group of American government elected officials in openly advancing policies that serve the interests of a foreign country, specifically the senators and congressmen who are lining up behind Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to oppose the White House’s attempt to negotiate an equitable solution to the thirty-five year confrontation with Iran.”>>>

    Been saying for years that we need new and expanded definition of Treason that can be applied to the realities of government and political corruption today.
    What they are doing is treason –“betrayal’–of the US welfare—but we have no updated treason laws to prosecute them.

    • on December 19, 2013, 11:47 pm

      shmuley botech has the latest little US senator traitorous puppy dog newark mayor whathisname wrapped around his little finger.
      i urge everybody to check this out. look at boteck playfully holding newark in his arms when they were both students at oxford.

  3. pabelmont on December 19, 2013, 11:07 am

    But Maddow is so cute (are we — if male — allowed to say such things on this website?), so doesn’t that cut her a bit of slack? Does she also have to be ACCURATE and ETHICAL? Are we harnessed to a (gasp) single standard around here?

    • Theo on December 19, 2013, 11:35 am


      You should not worry about a refusal from her, according to unreliable tongues she likes to be called cute, but only from her own genre.

  4. JeffB on December 19, 2013, 12:29 pm

    I’m a regular of Rachel Maddow’s show. She generally discusses politics from the point of view that the politicians presenting bills agree with their content. While she discusses lobbying she discusses it in terms of organizing cross state boundaries on primarily domestic issues.

    She’s not going to accuse Robert Menendez or Chuck Schumer of taking a bribe or not really believing in that position without tremendous evidence. If you know of any staffers for Robert Menendez or Chuck Schumer willing to come forwards and say their senator actually likes the Iran deal but needed the cash, or something like that, of course she’s cover it. But otherwise it is just speculation.

    • Shingo on December 19, 2013, 5:57 pm

      She’s not going to accuse Robert Menendez or Chuck Schumer of taking a bribe or not really believing in that position without tremendous evidence.

      She doesn’t need to. She need only bring up the fact that Kirk mains he ran for office to support Israel, even though took an oath to serve and protect the US constitution.

    • Kathleen on December 19, 2013, 6:40 pm

      If you watch Maddow on a regular basis then you know she has carried water for the I lobby or believes that Iran is an enemy of the U.S. She has in the past repeated unsubstantiated claims about Iran many times, continually jumps over human rights issues in the West Bank, Gaza and in Israel.

      While she has focused on human rights issues in Egypt, Iran, etc she never touches Saudi Arabia, Israel. My take on Maddow after watching her for several years she is a typical I lobby Dem. Great on domestic issues but basically an imperialist when it comes to foreign policy.

      • Citizen on December 20, 2013, 4:49 am

        @ Kathleen
        You are correct as to what she has a pattern of skirting, ignoring, jumping over, or otoh, what she pounds–she certainly has pounded Iran many times; she’s very selective about what she gets worked up about, slices and dices for food for thought. I can only take her in small doses, just to see what she’s talking about, same as, e.g., Hannity. I’ve never heard her talk about AIPAC.

      • JeffB on December 20, 2013, 9:34 am

        @Kathleen —

        I think Maddow’s foreign policy positions mainly revolve around shifting responsibility from the executive to congress. So anywhere the congress and the president agree, she’s not picking the fight. She will oppose Israeli positions where they disagree with her central issue. For example she opposed the drone war early on which Israel supported.

        On the issue of Iran with the current president she’s happy to see congress asserting their authority. She’s unhappy to see diplomacy being undermined. That’s a consistent position. I agree she’s anti-Iran and sees Iran as an enemy as does almost the entire population. She dislikes conservative religious extremists all over the planet.

        continually jumps over human rights issues in the West Bank, Gaza and in Israel.

        Agree. She’s either pro-Zionist or indifferent, I suspect indifferent.


        Anyway my point was just that she doesn’t buy into conspiratorial lobby theories on a host of issues on which such ideas are raised. She pretty much assumes people believe what they claim to believe. Even with people like Mitt Romney she tries to do that as much as possible.

  5. joemowrey on December 19, 2013, 12:38 pm

    Maddow is the ultimate sell out. She was a hardcore anti-war, anti-Bush activist when she was with Air America Radio. Once she got called up to MSNBC and began making the big bucks she became an ardent mouthpiece for the Dems. She is a dyed-in-the-wool Obamakin and gives Obama and his gang of thugs a complete pass on all of the war crimes, financial crimes and crimes against the constitution for which she so readily derided Bush and Company. She is dripping with hypocrisy, not to mention the blood of the many innocents killed by U.S. drones. Not to mention the blood of the many Palestinians killed by the Zionist regime in Israel. Truly a disgusting individual IMHO.

    • Shingo on December 19, 2013, 3:29 pm

      She is a dyed-in-the-wool Obamakin and gives Obama and his gang of thugs a complete pass on all of the war crimes, financial crimes and crimes against the constitution for which she so readily derided Bush and Company.

      That’s unfair. She has been very critical of many of Obama’s policies and violation of civil rights, and Greenwald has praised he’d for it.

      But yes, when it comes to Israel and the lobby, she’s pathetic.

      • joemowrey on December 19, 2013, 7:15 pm


        When she had her radio show back during the Iraq war she would often open her show with a litany of military and civilian deaths as a result of what she termed Bush’s “illegal” war in Iraq. That was back when she was looking to ingratiate herself with the anti-war movement and make a name as a big-time “liberal.” Nowadays she’s more concerned with maintaining her seven figure salary.

        When she starts opening her MSNBC show with a litany of those murdered by US drones in the half a dozen illegal wars Obama is waging around the globe, then I’ll cut her some slack. Granted, she does the occasional fluff piece mildly critical of Obama (strictly for effect in my view), but then it’s back on to the “shill for the Dems” bandwagon as per usual. She’s a hypocrite, plain and simple.

      • Shingo on December 19, 2013, 7:38 pm

        I agree with much of what you say Joe,

        But Maddow didn’t suddenly go silent when Obama came to office. She has been pretty consistent about spying and illegal wiretaps and the fact the wars have continued under Obama.

      • Kathleen on December 19, 2013, 7:59 pm

        And she has often repeated the unsubstantiated I lobby and Israel’s claims about Iran.

      • Citizen on December 20, 2013, 4:52 am

        She sure has.

  6. annie on December 19, 2013, 12:51 pm

    she’s a coward. i used to like her but now i don’t don’t give her the time a day. she’s dropped the ball so many times and appears to just have some blanket policy ti ignore the lobby like it doesn’t exist. the gun lobby, no prob. environment, no prob, kox bros, no prob. the israel lobby, what israel lobby?

    • chet on December 19, 2013, 1:08 pm

      Who controls the purse strings where she works?

    • Kathleen on December 19, 2013, 1:48 pm

      She has always been a coward and suck up on this issue. When the Arab Spring was thick with potential she and Richard Engel would talk about Tunisia, Libya, Egypt then jump right over Israel Palestine to Iranian protest. Not even a whisper.

      For a long time referred to Maddow as a domestic liberal but a foreign policy imperialist. Sounds like she is leaning a bit. When will we see her have the Leverett’s on to discuss Iran. Chris Hayes I believe had Hillary Mann Leverett on once. A start

      Of course we know the destabilization of much of the Arab Spring is not turning out so well

    • Citizen on December 20, 2013, 4:54 am

      @ Annie Robbins
      like what you say here, and how you said it Very true.

  7. dbroncos on December 19, 2013, 1:20 pm

    Maddow knows that her ass is in David Cohen’s briefcase . An honest, extensive discussion about Israel and the I Lobby would mean trading her paycheck for a pink slip. Same goes for Matthews and Hays.

    • quercus on December 19, 2013, 3:50 pm

      @dbroncos. Damn right — Maddow is OWNED as are the rest of the jerks who flap their sorry yaps on television. My only question is why would anyone care what someone who is PAID to say what they say, care about what they say, or think that what they say is important — it isn’t! They have only the opinions they are allowed to have. Maddow, Anderson Cooper, Wolf Blitzer, …….. they are irrelevant. What they say or think means nothing.

    • Kathleen on December 19, 2013, 6:49 pm

      Chris Hayes had two shows when he was host of UP on the issue. Pretty damn good shows too.

      • Citizen on December 20, 2013, 4:59 am

        @ Kathleen
        Yep. And then UP vanished; I haven’t seen him bring up the issue again on his new show, has anyone? I flip around the cable news and infotainment shows a lot, mainly to see how the competing channels are spinning issues and news I learn about elsewhere, and/or to see if they are ignoring issues and breaking news.

    • Citizen on December 20, 2013, 5:23 am

      Phil wrote up David Cohen & MSNBC here a few years ago:

      Freedom of the press is for those who own one.

  8. Kathleen on December 19, 2013, 1:44 pm

    Ali Gharib/Foreign Policy “The bill allows Obama to waive the new sanctions during the current talks by certifying every 30 days that Iran is complying with the Geneva deal and negotiating in good faith on a final agreement, as well as meeting other conditions such as not sponsoring or carrying out acts of terrorism against U.S. targets.”

    Just somehow that bill Schumer and other Israeli Reps are pushing has nothing in it about Israel and the U.S. halting “acts of terrorism against Iranian targets”

    How may Iranian scientist have been killed by Israeli agent terrorist? Who can forget Stuxnet…all acts of war.

    This is stepping out for Maddow she has been carrying water for the I lobby since the beginning of her career on MSNBC. She has repeated unsubstantiated claims about Iran may times in the past. The only MSNBCer that I have heard actually say that Iran as a signatory to the NPT has the right to enrich uranium. Of course Rachel is never going to talk about that nugget of truth. And zero about Israel having massive stockpiles of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons that go un inspected by the international community because Israel has and continues to refuse to sign the NPT.

    Cirincione will only go so far…when will Maddow have the Leverett’s onto inform the public?

    Ask her and her team to have the Leverett’s on her program

  9. Kathleen on December 19, 2013, 1:52 pm

    Hey look at what is front and center at Huff Po

    This is big. Bet this will not last long as front and center at Huff Po but at least it is up. Now if this were about Miley Cyrus could spend a couple of days up over at Huff Po in front and center. But hey take what you can get and keep pushing

  10. Ellen on December 19, 2013, 2:31 pm

    Here is the bill written by AIPAC for their stooges, Menendez et. all.

    The language is filled with the usual AIPAC talking points, including language Netanyahu has used. These guys are so transparent.

    War and fear mongering rants declaring that if Israel is compelled to attack Iran, the US has a constitutional responsibility to provide support of Israel in it’s defense of it’s territory, (but it does not have borders, btw) people and existence. (Section 5).

    Stunning attempt at legislation.

    • just on December 19, 2013, 8:50 pm

      Since when does the US have “a constitutional responsibility” to Israel? Please tell me.

      Are they our protectorate? NO.

      This is absolute BS.

    • Bumblebye on December 19, 2013, 9:48 pm

      Obama has said he won’t sign such a bill into law if it’s passed. No link, ’twas on radio!

  11. James Canning on December 19, 2013, 7:33 pm

    Maddow means that Congress can’t “get its act together” and therefore scr*ws diplomacy? Thanks to Aipac and its many stooges?

  12. ritzl on December 19, 2013, 11:15 pm

    If they won’t touch the Israel-via-AIPAC angle, I wonder if they/Maddow couldn’t tackle it from the gas-down-10%-since-Iran-deal-completed angle (I just filled up the truck today…). It’s an obvious, direct, and highly reportable, cause and effect. Do it early and often. Simple stuff.

    Or Obama for that matter. Think of the political hay he could make with what a 10% reduction in “energy” prices means as a tool to strengthen the economy, or just to bring it home to voters’ excruciatingly immediate self-interest. Pols use, and media reports, made-up propter hoc BS all the time. This is a case of a real propter hoc relationship. Silence.

    This is so simple and obvious that one has to wonder why it isn’t being done. Back to AIPAC’s effect. It would probably be seen, by AIPAC, as an open split with the Israel Lobby. Assuming pols want to act in US voters’ interests, I think they think they have navigate the coercion by feigning respect (out of fear/timidity) and acting disingenuously (wrt Lobby interests).

    It’s a fragile but complicated (by timidity) political pathology. Hopefully it’s breaking down.

  13. radii on December 19, 2013, 11:35 pm

    for the most part I like Maddow and enjoy her crisp intellect, but I don’t trust her … her deafening silence on Palestine and bias toward israel is just too glaring … I suspect she will be outed as the left’s Lara Logan

    • Citizen on December 20, 2013, 5:55 am

      You’re right, radii, Maddow does have a crisp intellect, yet so does Chris Hayes, and neither drools and spits like you know who on MSNBC, and Hayes tackled both Iran and Israel twice before he lost his first show.

      • JeffB on December 20, 2013, 9:41 am

        and Hayes tackled both Iran and Israel twice before he lost his first show.

        Just as an aside. Getting moved to the 8:00 PM weekday slot from a weekend show is a promotion.

    • Ellen on December 20, 2013, 7:08 am

      Maddow lost any credibility for me very early. Her snarkly humor veiled ignorance, especially when it came to other cultures. She is not too far from Bill Maher’s banality which ventures into evil.

      As for Laura Logan. I first encountered her listening to an interview. The interviewers were fawning over her, but to me — as someone just listening to her words and having worked in conflict zones– she was obviously just another pretty face moving around in a bubble within a conflict zone. The self importance of most all of those roporters, living in their hotels, moving around with guards and drivers, talking loudly, drinking heavily like it was all one party on the edge could be revolting at times. These guys were just as in touch with what was going on as the couch potato in Iowa watching the tube.

      When Laura Logan turned up in Tahir Square at the hight of outster of Mubarek in her made for TV outfit and wearing pearls, that confirmed it all.

      Maddow is another fake. They are fluff for TV. Do not expect real thought or information.

  14. Citizen on December 20, 2013, 5:49 am

    This comment is not about the coming war with Iran, but the war on Iraq that cost a half million deaths, many thousands of them civilian caught in Bush-Chaney’s “shock and awe.” A book came out a month or two ago that says the real reason to attack Sadsack was to “kick some ass” because Afghanistan was too easy, that is, we weren’t projecting enough power over there.

    Remember how the mainstream media operated as a government propaganda machine for that Iraq project? I don’t see any of the talking heads on my TV telling us about this push in congress to sabotage the fragile diplomatic attempts with Iran, do you? Did anybody besides Maddow even mention it?

    • marc b. on December 20, 2013, 12:33 pm

      I don’t waste much time listening to the talking heads, citizen, but that’s my fuzzy, general impression. Iran could not sit back and take it, however, and fail to respond to a unilateral attack by the Israelis (supported by the US and SA). And you have to wonder what is going through the collective mind of the Saudi degenerates. for US chicken hawks, what’s a few hundred more dead American soldiers and couple hundred billion more in debt? no skin off their backs. but SA would be faced with an existential threat from a war with Iran. Israel/US/SA want to break the Shiite crescent? perceived SA support of an Israeli attack on Iran could work to unify Shia/Sunni elements.

    • James Canning on December 20, 2013, 7:06 pm

      Some fools in the G W Bush administration saw the appeal of “kicking ass”. One was G W Bush, of course. But Bush did ask time and again, why attack Iraq if Iraq had nothing to do with the “9/11” attacks.

      • Citizen on December 23, 2013, 6:40 am

        @ James Canning

        “But Bush did ask time and again, why attack Iraq if Iraq had nothing to do with the “9/11″ attacks.”

        Do you have a source(s) for this statement? I’d love to read it.

  15. lobewyper on December 21, 2013, 7:40 pm

    This action by AIPAC is marking the beginning of its end as an effective force. The hubris inherent in trying to require the American people to join a war of Israel’s choosing is seriously crazy–particularly in view of the fact that Americans overwhelmingly rejected the use of force against Syria. This will not go over well with Joe Public, and will call a huge amount of unwanted attention to the influence of Israel and its sympathizers upon our foreign policy. As Phil would say, the wheels are coming off earlier than we expected. Talk about shooting oneself in the foot– The Lobby apparently invented such behavior!

    • JeffB on December 23, 2013, 6:10 am

      @loberwyper —

      The President of the United States, the Secretary of State and large number of leading senators and representatives were in favor of war with Syria at the time. AIPAC had a mainstream position on the war. It was one that a majority of the public disagreed with. That’s all. Lobbies all the time have positions that are in the minority. That is the constitutional purpose of lobbies to argue for positions that would otherwise not carry the day. Nothing unusual happened.

      • philweiss on December 24, 2013, 9:06 am

        this is horse manure. Obama sought out AIPAC to carry the water for Syria attack. It did so. Obama subsequently left AIPAC high and dry. But:
        Nothing unusual happened.
        Move along, folks

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