The New York Times says that the Israel lobby is pushing a march toward war with Iran. Here is some remarkably frank reporting on the new Iran sanctions legislation from the old grey lady. Mark Landler and Jonathan Weisman write:
The White House has cast the issue in stark terms, saying that a vote for new sanctions would be, in effect, a “march toward war” and challenging those lawmakers who support the bill to acknowledge publicly that they favor military action against Iran.
“It just stands to reason if you close the diplomatic option, you’re left with a difficult choice of waiting to see if sanctions cause Iran to capitulate, which we don’t think will happen, or considering military action,” said Benjamin J. Rhodes, a deputy national security adviser…
Behind these positions is a potent mix of political calculations in a midterm election year. Pro-Israel groups like the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or Aipac, have lobbied Congress to ratchet up the pressure on Iran, and many lawmakers are convinced that Tehran is bluffing in its threat to walk away from the talks….
Israel’s government and pro-Israel interest groups are pressing the same hard line.
USA Today slams the legislation as “a quick path to war” and calls out Israel:
[H]ard-liners in Iran, Israel and the U.S. Congress press efforts that would kill negotiations.
The Times reporters quote Mark Dubowitz of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, an Israel lobby group that has opposed the Iran deal, and a lobby stalwart, Maryland senator Ben Cardin, who is on the defensive.
Senator Benjamin L. Cardin, Democrat of Maryland and a strong supporter of the legislation, bristled at the White House’s pressure, especially its “march to war” language. “I think they should regret using that language,” he said. “The bad actor is Iran.”
MJ Rosenberg lands on Cardin.
Note also Democratic senator Ben Cardin (MD) calling out the president for criticizing the lobby’s effort rather than calling out the lobby that he is so tight with for obstructing U.S. policy. Note also that Carl Levin, no surprise for him, is fiercely supporting the agreement and his president.
Jim Lobe, who has done heroic work against the legislation, says that the same characters who brought us the Iraq war are trying to give us an Iran war, by the same method, the manifesto signed by scores of neoconservatives. The Iran manifesto comes from a different front group, and urges passage of sanctions legislation that would kill the deal. Signatories include Lawrence Kaplan, Marty Peretz, Bill Kristol, Frederick and Robert Kagan, Mark Dubowitz (who is quoted in the Times), Leon Wieseltier, Nick Eberstadt, Josh Block, Jamie Kirchick, Lee Smith, Dan Senor, and Joe Lieberman.
Lobe quotes White House security aide Bernadette Meehan’s very strong statement against the legislation, then comments on the Democratic politics:
[Meehan said this weekend:] “If certain members of Congress want the United States to take military action, they should be up front with the American public and say so. Otherwise, it’s not clear why any member of Congress would support a bill that possibly closes the door on diplomacy and makes it more likely that the United States will have to choose between military options or allowing Iran’s nuclear program to proceed…”
The question now is whether the White House can hold nervous Democrats, particularly Majority Leader Harry Reid who controls the calendar for floor votes, in line. As I suggested yesterday, the fact that the co-sponsorship has become so heavily and conspicuously Republican — and is now, thanks to the Foreign Policy Initiative (AKA the Project for the New American Century) so closely associated with neoconservatives and other Iraq war advocates — could make that work easier. That may be one reason why anonymous Hill staffers linked to AIPAC are claiming to CNN and other outlets that the lobby group has rounded up 77 commitments to vote for the bill if it comes to the floor, making it immune to a promised White House veto if Reid lets it come to a vote.
The stakes involved were made manifest by an extraordinary statement to JTA’s Ron Kampeas by the head of the National Jewish Democratic Council (NJDC),
That statement was by Jack Moline, the incoming director of National Jewish Democratic Council, to the JTA:
In an interview with JTA, he accused the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and the American Jewish Committee of imposing a “litmus test” on senators and using “strong-arm tactics.”
“It isn’t the business of any organization to be setting up a litmus test on a piece of legislation,” Moline said
MJ Rosenberg predicts that we are heading for an AIPAC policy conference where a tsunami of lobbying is readied:
The [Times] article states that passage of the AIPAC resolution, followed by a veto override, would be an “historic repudiation” of the president. “Democrats recognize the delicacy of Mr. Obama’s signing the first veto of his presidency on an Iran bill, and to have that first veto overridden would be a historic repudiation. But Democrats said the current lull can hold only for a matter of weeks, not months.”
That could mean that AIPAC will use its March “policy conference” as the venue for an all out campaign to defeat the agreement, thereby putting the United States, in the White House’s words, on a “march to war.”
Greg Sargent at the Washington Post publishes a nose-counting piece that puts pressure on 30 Democratic Senators who have said nothing about the bill– thereby attempting to cover their bases– to declare their opposition to it, lest the thing actually achieves 60 votes.
By my count, more than half the Democratic caucus have been mum on where they stand….
The basic storyline in recent days has been that the pro-sanctions-bill side is gaining in numbers, while the anti-sanctions-bill side hasn’t — even though the White House has been lobbying Dems very aggressively to back off on this bill, on the grounds that it could imperil the chances for a historic long-term breakthrough with Iran. As Josh Rogin puts it, “the White House’s warnings have had little effect.”…
[I]t’s a bit puzzling that we’ve heard so little from Senate Dems who might be inclined to support the White House in holding the line against the sanctions bill right now
Unlike the Times, Sargent– and this is typical of the liberal media — fails to inform his readers of what we’re up against. Till this elliptical bit, at the end:
this conspicuous public silence — even as the White House is making a very public plea for Dems to stand down, and even as large majorities of Americans support the current nuclear deal – is a sign of just how cautious Dems are being about the domestic politics of negotiating with Iran right now.
Today Greg Sargent reports that a coalition of liberal groups are coming out against the legislation.
A coalition of liberal and foreign policy groups — including MoveOn, CREDO, the National Iranian American Council, J Street and a few evangelical groups — are sending a letter today to Senators, urging them not to support S. 1881, the bill to impose new sanctions on Iran, which the White House fears will derail diplomacy and make war more likely
The letter says that the legislation “would set us on a path toward war,” and the American people have made very clear that they do not want another war. No mention of Israel or the lobby. Code Pink is a signatory, also Jewish Voice for Peace and Just Foreign Policy.
MJ Rosenberg calls out other media for their silence.
I’m switching my paid subscription to Andrew Sullivan from Josh Marshall to protest TPM’s silence on AIPAC rush to war.
— MJ Rosenberg (@MJayRosenberg) January 14, 2014
He also makes this assertion about tail-wagging-dog:
And in his email today Rosenberg talks about dual loyalty. As if this is not an issue.
Most of the people who receive this are Jewish, To put it mildly, we have a special responsibility not to permit the lobby (and its Congressional cutouts) to obstruct the president’s effort to avert war in our name. Anyone who knows anything about Jewish history will understand that the lobby’s effort is singularly dangerous as well as wrong.
Update: Ron Fournier at National Journal is deeply disturbed by the Times reporting, in “What’s Driving Some Democrats to Defy Obama…”
This paragraph from a New York Times story on proposed new sanctions for Iran sent a chill down my spine: [paragraph mentioning AIPAC at top of Mondo post]
I don’t want U.S. foreign policy swayed by lobbyists and politics.