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Menendez bags on Iran sanctions, and congressman says AIPAC demands deference to Israel over US

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The neoconservative threat to Iran negotiations is being staunched as we speak. Democratic Senator Robert Menendez announced today that he won’t sponsor legislation for more sanctions on Iran until March 24 at the earliest. Jamal Abdi of National Iranian American Council reports:

Menendez confirms letter signed by Sens that they won’t vote to pass new sanctions until after March 24 if theres no framework agreement

Reuters:

At a Senate Banking Committee hearing Menendez said, “Many of my Democratic colleagues and I have sent a letter to the president telling him that we will not support passage of the Kirk-Menendez bill on the Senate floor until after March 24 and only if there is no political framework agreement.”

He said he and his Democratic colleagues “remain hopeful” that there will be a diplomatic solution to the Iran nuclear issue. But Menendez said they are “deeply skeptical” about Iran’s commitment to making concessions that would show that its nuclear program is peaceful by the deadline international negotiators have set for a framework agreement.

Remember that Menendez last week said that Obama’s State of the Union speech sounded like “talking points from Tehran.”

Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio is sticking by the president. Brown “comes out strongly against new sanctions; cites progress of interim deal in halting Iran program,” reports the head of Ploughshares.

More pushback against the neocons. Last week David Corn said that House Speaker John Boehner’s move to invite Netanyahu to upstage Obama’s state of the union policy on Iran was “nearly traitorous.” MJ Rosenberg echoes the meme: “American Traitor.” And Buzzfeed picks up Louisville, KY, congressman John Yarmuth saying it’s “close to subversion.” What a theme, national interest. Yarmuth also says that AIPAC and many Israel supporters demand dual loyalty: “we defer to Israel more than we defer to the United States.” The emperor doesn’t have a lot of clothes on here!

Yarmouth is 67 and Jewish, a former journalist. He spoke on progressive radio, the Stephanie Miller show:

“I am totally outraged at Speaker Boehner for doing it, I think it’s, it was deliberately designed to undermine the president — that’s close to subversion. I cannot believe it. Forget the protocol issues, that by itself is certainly a problem, but the motivation behind it is what particularly outraged me.”

Yarmuth describes the power of AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, in Congress:

“And, you know, I was there in the chamber in 2011, when Netanyahu spoke, and there he got I don’t know how many standing ovations. And I was in Israel shortly thereafter, and believe me, the Israelis pay very, very close attention to events like that. And I just — the first thing out of virtually every Israeli’s mouth was: ‘What was with all the standing ovations?’ And I said: ‘Well, AIPAC was meeting in Washington that week, and the gallery was full of AIPAC members, and every one of the members all wanted to see — make sure that their constituents saw them stand up.’ Well, that was kind of a phony reaction, but the Israelis took it very seriously. And so it can have an impact on the election — and, yeah — totally inappropriate on so many levels….

“A lot of it has to do with fundraising — I’m sure some of it is sincere support for Israel. You know, I’m a Jewish member of Congress, I’m a strong supporter of Israel, but my first obligation is to the Constitution of the United States, not to the Constitution of Israel. [P.S. Israel has no constitution] And unfortunately, I think, some of the demands that are made of members by AIPAC and some strong Jewish supporters are that we pay more attention — I guess we defer — to Israel more than we defer to the United States.

“And that’s another thing, because if he’s going to come over here and say ‘well, my intelligence shows this’ — you know, there’s an implicit, I guess, admission — or not admission, I guess concession — that Israeli intelligence is superior to American intelligence. I’m not ready to sit there and endorse that kind of proposition, and I suspect he will, basically, talk about things like that — you know, try to match their assessment of the situation against ours. And I’m not willing to believe theirs is superior.”

Commentary’s Jonathan Tobin has landed on Yarmuth:  “J Street Ally Promotes Anti-Semitic Slander”

Rep. John Yarmuth, who told radio talker Stephanie Miller that the invite was “close to subversion” and accused the bipartisan pro-Israel majority in Congress of dual loyalty. That should leave the Jewish group that has embraced Yarmouth—the left-wing lobby J Street—with some questions as to whether they are prepared to draw a line between their own campaign against Netanyahu and slander of Israel and pro-Israel members of Congress…

Tobin says that the comments are almost as bad as Tom Friedman’s comments on the Congress being “bought and paid for by the Israel lobby.”

Neither Yarmuth’s faith nor his relationship with J Street can justify these remarks. They are an echo of the worst sort of anti-Semitic stereotypes put about by Israel haters. Like the authors of the Israel Lobby smear and others who seek to discredit the bipartisan across-the-board pro-Israel coalition in Congress, Yarmuth fails to understand that support for Israel is part of this nation’s political DNA. It transcends party politics or region.

But if it was in the country’s DNA, the lobby wouldn’t be running a pressure campaign to make sure that the issue isn’t politicized and that politicians are sewn up. They would let support for Israel become a political football, the same way that say, civil rights are politicized, knowing they have a majority. But the lobby is losing power, to judge by Yarmuth’s indiscretion. And the political consensus is beginning to splinter at the edges. As Jim Zogby writes at Huffpo:

Those pundits who suggest that Boehner’s action threatens to make support for Israel into a partisan issue miss an important point–it already is a partisan issue and is becoming more so with every passing year.

Oh and Netanyahu’s former ambassador to the U.S., Michael Oren, sees that splintering taking place. He’s urged Netanyahu to cancel the speech lest it hurt Israel–

so as not to cause a rift with the American government. Much responsibility and reasoned political behavior are needed to guard interests in the White House.

Yes, you can’t trust the American people to support Israel without some guardianship.

Oren is running for Knesset in Israel on a centrist ticket. His successor as ambassador, Ron Dermer, reportedly cooked up the Netanyahu invitation.

Oh and Code Pink is organizing an email campaign to pressure Democratic senators to support Obama on Iran negotiations.

Thanks to Annie Robbins.

Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of Mondoweiss.net.

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37 Responses

  1. Les on January 27, 2015, 12:43 pm

    Cheers and more cheers to Republican Congressman John Yarmuth. Having been a reporter, perhaps he is better informed.

  2. MRW on January 27, 2015, 1:21 pm

    Call his DC office and say thanks: 202-225-5401

  3. CloakAndDagger on January 27, 2015, 1:28 pm

    This is excellent! A few more congress members like John Yarmuth and this power configuration is toast. It is so great to hear the voice of a true patriot voicing exactly the thoughts that we share – that American interests trump Israel’s in every way. John Yarmuth is clearly in touch with his constituents – the citizens of the USA.

    This will also expose the traitors in our midst, like Tobin. We are noting who they are, and when their ships sinks, as it clearly will, we will be coming after those scurrying rats with a meat cleaver. [Note to NSA: that was a metaphor and I am not advocating physical violence!].

  4. pabelmont on January 27, 2015, 1:45 pm

    Standing up to the “neocons” or to AIPAC? Or is it the same thing?

    Maybe neocons are reactionaries in league with the military-industrial-complex: they like wars and shoving other people around with USA’s armies.

  5. John Douglas on January 27, 2015, 2:19 pm

    Cheers for Rep Yarmouth an here I thought, paraphrasing a Gospel,”What good could come from Republicans”. Is there a Democrat with the courage to repeat?

  6. oldgeezer on January 27, 2015, 3:15 pm

    It seems this could be the moment the wheels come off. Let’s hope so. Bravo to Mr Yarmuth.

  7. just on January 27, 2015, 3:43 pm

    Schmuley LIES about Iran (and Israel), protects his PM, and denigrates the President:

    “Bibi, Nevermind Offending Obama

    There is nothing wrong with an Israeli Prime Minister doing his utmost to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, even if it offends the sensibilities of the American president. A nation that has experienced the world’s worst genocide just 70 years ago has not just a right but an obligation to take seriously any existential threats that loom against it.

    Iran is a genocidal regime. It has stated on countless occasions that it will destroy and annihilate Israel. And it is now building the doomsday weapons that can translate rhetoric into action.

    For years Iran has been hell-bent on developing nuclear weapons. The Obama administration’s strategy to engage the Islamic tyranny in talks has produced no demonstrable results. Unfreezing Iran’s financial assets has only emboldened the brutal regime in continuing its genocidal rhetoric against Israel and disgusting human rights abuses

    ….

    Regardless, the Prime Minister of Israel is not elected principally to understand the mindset of the American president. He is elected first and foremost to defend a nation that has experienced more hatred, more torture, more bloodletting, and more wholesale slaughter than any nation on earth. That Prime Minister has the responsibility to do everything in his power to protect the Jewish people in Israel from a nuclear annihilation.

    One holocaust is quite enough.”

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rabbi-shmuley-boteach/bibi-nevermind-offending-_b_6542616.html

    • Shingo on January 27, 2015, 3:54 pm

      There is nothing wrong with an Israeli Prime Minister doing his utmost to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, even if it offends the sensibilities of the American president.

      And what does his poodle Samantha Power have to say about that?

      Funny how Power can’t shut up on Twitter, but in this topic she’s nowhere to be seen.

      • just on January 27, 2015, 4:27 pm

        She was seen hanging with her buddies McCain and Graham before the SOTU…

    • lysias on January 27, 2015, 5:26 pm

      A nation that has experienced the world’s worst genocide just 70 years ago has not just a right but an obligation to take seriously any existential threats that loom against it.

      Israel experienced a genocide?

      • Sibiriak on January 27, 2015, 10:30 pm

        lysias: A nation that has experienced the world’s worst genocide just 70 years ago has not just a right but an obligation to take seriously any existential threats that loom against it.

        Israel experienced a genocide?

        —–

        “A nation”= “the Jewish nation” = “the Jewish people”

        See the Israeli supreme court definition of nationality.

    • RoHa on January 27, 2015, 7:02 pm

      “Regardless, the Prime Minister of Israel is not elected principally to understand the mindset of the American president. He is elected first and foremost to defend a nation that has experienced more hatred, more torture, more bloodletting, and more wholesale slaughter than any nation on earth. ”

      Boasting again. Israel is certainly guilty of plenty of hatred, torture, bloodletting, and wholesale slaughter, but Im not yet convinced it has done more than any other nation on earth.

      • eljay on January 29, 2015, 7:35 am

        “Regardless, the Prime Minister of Israel is … elected first and foremost to defend a nation that has experienced more hatred, more torture, more bloodletting, and more wholesale slaughter than any nation on earth. ”

        1. Mr. Boteach is wrong. Many other nations have experienced more hatred, torture, bloodletting and wholesale slaughter than has Israel. And Israel has dealt more of the above than it has experienced.

        2. If, by “nation”, Mr. Boteach was referring to “the Jews”, he is wrong again. The nation of the Amalekites easily wins. It was holocausted, wiped off the map and pushed into the sea…by “the Jews”.

        Samuel also said unto Saul … Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass. … And Saul smote the Amalekites from Havilah until thou comest to Shur, that is over against Egypt. And he took Agag the king of the Amalekites alive, and utterly destroyed all the people with the edge of the sword. … Then said Samuel, Bring ye hither to me Agag the king of the Amalekites. And Agag came unto him delicately. … And Samuel hewed Agag in pieces before the Lord in Gilgal.

      • RoHa on January 29, 2015, 6:06 pm

        “holocausted”

        Hmmmn. Not a happy coinage.

  8. Keith on January 27, 2015, 4:25 pm

    “Oh and Code Pink is organizing an email campaign to pressure Democratic senators to support Obama on Iran negotiations.”

    It is hard to know whether to laugh or cry at this. Yes, yes, let us show our support for the “good cop” in his valiant efforts to save us from the “bad cop.” This is why I have no respect for “liberal” organizations like Code Pink, who fundamentally support the very system which inevitably produces the specific instances of injustice that they claim to oppose. Instead, why doesn’t Code Pink call upon the US to support a nuclear free Middle East, which Iran supports and the US and Israel oppose? How about opposing Obama’s plan to modernize the US nuclear arsenal? I am really sick and tired of these “progressive” organizations whose primary commitment to progressive change is to whine about the Republicans and urge support for the Democrats.

    • annie on January 27, 2015, 7:27 pm

      do you mean nuclear free or nuclear weapons free? because code pink does support a nuclear weapons free middle east. you sound like you do not think code pink can multi task.

      btw, pressuring dem senators is not the same as ‘urge support for dems. ‘ i am sure there are a lot of dems they do not support.

      • just on January 27, 2015, 7:48 pm

        VoteVets also has a petition going:

        “Since I wrote last week, over 25,000 veterans, military family members, and VoteVets supporters signed our petition calling on the Senate to vote down the Menendez-Kirk legislation designed to derail diplomatic efforts with Iran.

        Good news: Thanks to grassroots pressure and a veto threat from President Obama, the bill looks destined for defeat.

        What’s more, a diplomacy-first alternative has surfaced — legislation that will help deliver the final nail in the coffin for hard-liners in Iran, and here at home.
        ……….

        And if Iran leaves the negotiating table or begins to operate in bad faith, then the Senate should reconsider instituting lapsed sanctions and passing new ones — that option is available.

        But until then, diplomacy is our best chance of separating Iran from any nuclear ambitions.

        Tell your Senators to support the Feinstein-Murphy legislation that puts diplomacy first……

        We have an important voice in this debate.

        Use it. ”

        (from an email I received today)

      • Keith on January 27, 2015, 8:11 pm

        ANNIE- “do you mean nuclear free or nuclear weapons free?”

        Nuclear weapons free.

        Annie: “because code pink does support a nuclear weapons free middle east.”

        Then why are they “organizing an email campaign to pressure Democratic senators to support Obama on Iran negotiations.”? These negotiations are a fraud. US/Israel pressuring Iran to curtail nuclear power when both have nuclear weapons. How does one support Obama and empire in this hypocrisy? If Code Pink really was serious about a nuclear weapons free Middle East, then logically they would be organizing an email campaign to pressure Obama to pursue a nuclear weapons free Middle East. Also, to staunchly oppose the upgrade of the US nuclear arsenal. This is what I am talking about, their progressive credentials are largely rhetorical. They don’t back up their rhetoric with deeds, Israel/Palestine perhaps the one exception. They may be at the fringes of the mainstream, but they are mainstream nonetheless and part of the problem, just like the big environmental and feminist organizations. Supporting Obama in these “negotiations” is effectively supporting the US position in these “negotiations” (ultimatums?) which are probably designed to fail and to provide a pretext for US escalation. As you should be aware, Iran is in compliance with the nuclear non-proliferation treaty which the US is in non-compliance and Israel didn’t even sign. The US has no business applying sanctions against Iran or even engaging in negotiations. Support for these negotiations is de facto support for US Middle East imperial policy, and is about as anti-progressive as you can get. And notice how “Just” seems to support increasing sanctions on Iran if these negotiations fail, as defined by us. This is BS. And it is part of the process of manufacturing consent for imperial policies.

      • annie on January 27, 2015, 9:56 pm

        keith, practically speaking … now that the republicans are in the majority they could introduce legislation that would trigger a war, easily. this recent campaign of code pinks (and they have many all the time) is timelu and accurate imho.

        If Code Pink really was serious about a nuclear weapons free Middle East, then logically they would be organizing an email campaign to pressure Obama to pursue a nuclear weapons free Middle East.

        they already have and it’s ongoing. i support you organizing a campaign to pursue a nuclear weapons free Middle East. but right now i also support ALL senators not signing aipac’s legislation designed to push the US to war if these negotiations don’t meet with israel’s demands. it’s very current and dangerous binding legislation.

      • Keith on January 28, 2015, 12:02 am

        ANNIE- “they already have and it’s ongoing”

        Why wasn’t I informed? Why weren’t WE informed. For a website concerned with the serious business of the Middle East, this is big news, yet I (and I am sure others) know nothing about it. Code Pink is making a big push to force the US to actually work towards a nuclear weapons free Middle East? Yet, while I am unaware of this major effort to influence imperial geostrategy, I am painfully aware of Code Pink’s effort to get Democrats to ‘support the President!’ How strange. Not really. Defend them all you want, Annie. The day Code Pink becomes a significant thorn in the side of empire is the day you will never see.

  9. MRW on January 27, 2015, 5:59 pm

    Jonathan Tobin, if you’re reading this:

    Neither Yarmuth’s faith nor his relationship with J Street can justify these remarks. They are an echo of the worst sort of anti-Semitic stereotypes put about by Israel haters.

    We’re Americans here. We are absolutely entitled to hate what Israel is doing, just as we will criticize other nations. Take your tripe and shove it,

    • American on January 28, 2015, 9:15 am

      @ MRW

      Ditto.
      And to all US Israel supporters—get your Isr cult out of my government, treasury, media and universities
      Or find yourselves persona non grata in this country.

  10. RoHa on January 27, 2015, 7:15 pm

    “Yarmuth fails to understand that support for Israel is part of this nation’s political DNA. It transcends party politics or region. ”

    It’s in the US Constitution, isn’t it? Or is it the Declaration of Independence? Somewhere in one of those things, anyway.

  11. Tom Callaghan on January 27, 2015, 7:23 pm

    The Israel Lobby is unmatched in terms of power and influence. Their only real vulnerability is their tendency to overreach. Going around the White House to arrange Netanyahu’s third appearance before a Joint Session of Congress constitutes massive overreach.

    Netanyahu will speak March 3 exactly two weeks before his own election in Israel. Congress will be discussing additional sanctions against Iran. Netanyahu will be here to campaign for his own reelection by seeking to undermine our duly elected President’s foreign policy.

    The whole caper doesn’t pass the smell test. Netanyahu.

    http://www.wednesdayswars.com

    • Kay24 on January 27, 2015, 8:25 pm

      Congress is showing the American people that it chooses war not peace, and that they do not want to give peace a chance. All this because an alien nation is deciding what is best for US.

      • just on January 27, 2015, 8:56 pm

        I beg to disagree, Kay. The “alien nation is deciding what is best for” Israel.

        They don’t care about the US or the people here! They only care for their veto, their $$$, their complicity in criminal behavior, their support, and the war machinery.

  12. annie on January 27, 2015, 7:46 pm

    support for Israel is NOT part of this nation’s political DNA, if it were there would be no need for an israel lobby. our country and our elections would be thousands times better without lobby funds being pumped into the election process. elections are now a billion dollar industry which is sick. it rips apart our democracy and hammers americans with months and months of advertisements every other year.

  13. Tom Callaghan on January 27, 2015, 8:05 pm

    Netanyahu is becoming a massive liability for Israel. He’s wearing out his welcome with people who are not being paid to love Israel no matter what.

    Boehner has acquiesced to Netanyahu’s request to speak to Congress on March 3, two weeks before Netanyahu’s election back in Israel. Netanyahu will use the occasion to undermine US foreign policy on Iran and get a short term bump in his numbers back in Israel.

    Is there something wrong with this picture?

    Boehner and Netanyahu are betting that the great mass of the American will not catch on to the con. They’re going to lose that bet.

    http://www.wednesdayswars.com

  14. Kay24 on January 27, 2015, 8:22 pm

    Netanyahu getting blasted by the press, and his ugly political move, to p.off Obama and the WH, for political reasons, is being heavily criticized. I hope this blows up in his arrogant face, and it will ultimately make him lose the elections:

    “Netanyahu has also alienated many elected Democrats, including Jewish Democrats on Capitol Hill. One Jewish member of Congress told me that he felt humiliated and angered by Netanyahu’s ploy to address Congress “behind the president’s back.” A non-Jewish Democratic elected official texted me over the weekend to say that the damage Netanyahu is doing to Israel’s relationship with the U.S. may be “irreparable.”

    It makes absolutely no sense for an Israeli leader to side so ostentatiously with an American president’s political opposition.
    A larger group that Netanyahu risks alienating is American Jewry, or at least the strong majority of American Jews that has voted for Obama twice. Netanyahu’s decision to pit U.S. political party against U.S. political party—because that is what his end-run does—puts American Jewish supporters of Israel in a messy, uncomfortable spot, and it is not in Israel’s interest to place American Jews in a position in which they have to choose between their president and the leader of a Jewish state whose behavior is making them queasy.”

    http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2015/01/Netanyahu-vs-Obama-on-Iran/384849/

  15. just on January 27, 2015, 10:03 pm

    The first paragraph lays out the US problem, in a nutshell:

    “When Israel wants something from the United States, it typically makes three stops: the pro-Israel lobby, Jewish members of Congress and the White House.

    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ignored all three when he accepted an invitation from House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) to address Congress about U.S. Iran policy.

    Neither congressional Jews nor the American Israel Public Affairs Committee were notified of the speech, much less consulted. The White House found out three hours before Boehner announced the address on January 21.

    The result: Muted yet palpable discomfiture among the three sectors that Israel relies on to ensure continued support from Washington.”

    http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/1.639447?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=twitter

    • annie on January 27, 2015, 10:10 pm

      Neither congressional Jews nor the American Israel Public Affairs Committee were notified of the speech, much less consulted.

      oh please. it’s very likely certain congressional jews were informed or in on it, while ‘consulted’ may be accurate, who knows. but the chances aipac wasn’t in on this from the get go is far fetched. aipac says anything. recall when they claimed they were not in on pressuring the US to invade syria? ha! just because we don’t hear about it doesn’t mean they don’t bloom like a nightflower, in the dark.

      • just on January 27, 2015, 10:30 pm

        I agree, Annie.

        I just thought the paragraph quite “interesting”… JTA sure laid it out.

        (want to bet that McCain and Graham and some others were in on it, too?)

  16. Kay24 on January 28, 2015, 3:05 am

    It makes me curious as to why Menendez and others had a change of heart. Menendez’s heart is always with Israel, so this is an interesting turn of events.

    I guess the O administration is somewhat relieved.

    • piotr on January 31, 2015, 10:46 pm

      Kay24: there is harmless grandstanding, and harmful grandstanding. The business of imposing additional sanctions on Iran, structured so they would continue forever, like there were imposed on Cuba, is disastrous, whether it would not work (USA proving that it can be ignored and SHOULD be ignored) or whether it would work (if the economic crisis in Iran gets serious, the biggest counter-force for ISIS+similar nuts will be undermined, and this is really la arger risk than any member of Establishment with functional brain is willing to accept).

      This is not the first time that grandstanding Democratic senators, including Schumer, folded to obey the President. I bet my farm that the members of the Establishment with functional brains include some major Zionist political donors (surely, not Adelson, but almost surely, Saban). It is still the case, IMHO, that if the major Zionist political donors are united, we have a steam roller, and thus Israel can expand settlements with impunity — to cite one clear issue.

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