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Netanyahu played ‘decisive’ role in Senate bill aimed at stymieing Iran deal

The New York Times has a piece up titled “Iran Assails U.S. Plan for a Vote in Congress,” saying that the Senate’s interference in the Iran negotiations is already having a negative effect, just as the National Iranian American Council warned us that it would.

We faulted the Times yesterday for leaving the Israel angle out of the Congressional deliberations, but today it touches on that question. The last three paragraphs of the story quote an Israeli minister, Yuval Steinitz, saying that Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu effected the the bill that was passed unanimously by Senate Foreign Relations on Tuesday, granting Congress time to review the deal, by giving that speech to Congress on March 3:

In Israel, officials welcomed the compromise reached in Washington, with Yuval Steinitz, the minister of intelligence and strategic affairs, describing the congressional move as “an achievement for Israeli policy.”

He credited the March 3 speech in Congress by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as “decisive” in developing the bill, which Mr. Steinitz called “a very important element in preventing a bad deal.”

And yet the Times also gives credence to the Senators’ reservations about the deal:

Republicans and some Democrats in Congress, highly suspicious of Iran’s motivations, have expressed worry that provisions of the framework agreement are too lenient toward Iran and would leave it with the capacity to divert nuclear energy enrichment to make bombs, despite Iran’s guarantees that its purposes are peaceful.

Are the senators genuinely that worried about Iran’s motivations? Or do they have their own motivations?

Later on in the same newspaper, we discover that Senator Robert Menendez, a member of Senate Foreign Relations and a force in the congressional pressure on the Iran deal, has raised $431,000 for his defense fund against federal bribery charges– “from an array of political interests, including real estate developers, Cuban-American political donors and pro-Israel activists.”

On the Times list of contributors is “David Steiner, who was president of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or Aipac, a pro-Israel group.”

The New Jersey Record reported last month that pro-Israel activists were coming out in droves for Menendez because he was taking Obama on over Iran:

Several pro-Israel activists said people were motivated by the possibility that anonymously sourced reports of Menendez’s facing criminal charges are linked to the Paramus Democrat’s criticism of the Obama administration’s handling of nuclear talks with Iran and relaxation of restrictions on Cuba.

“The majority of people I’ve spoken with feel he’s getting a bad rap, that the prosecution has political overtones to it,” said Ben Chouake, president of Englewood Cliffs-based NORPAC, a committee that raises money for Democrats and Republicans who support Israel. “On this particular matter, even Republicans will be supporting Bob Menendez.”

Menendez already raised nearly $900,000 for legal costs between April and December last year, and more than $100,000 of that came from ardent Israel supporters.

This raises a real question about the Times’s coverage of the Congressional opposition to the Iran deal. Do these legislators all want political contributions from the Israel lobby?

Rachel Maddow asked a similar question the other night and didn’t answer it.

“It is kind of exciting just in structural terms to see Congress decide to care. But why this and only this? Constitutionally the administration sets foreign policy of the Untied States and negotiates on behalf of our country… It is strange, though, deeply strange that they [Congress] have only discovered this interest in getting involved when it comes to the administration’s efforts to avert a new war.”

Americans are seeing this corruption before their eyes and speculating about its causes. Journalists owe it to their audiences to begin exposing why Congress is so responsive to a foreign power.

James North and Philip Weiss
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26 Responses

  1. hophmi
    hophmi on April 16, 2015, 12:56 pm

    Iran also said that it wanted sanctions lifted before anything happens. This is how people stake out negotiating positions. I’m sure, given that Iran is apparently a rational power, that they understand that the United States, just like Iran, has a domestic political system. If the ayatollah is bent on signing a deal, it needs to mollify Iranian hardliners. If the pro-Iran lobby NIAC is unhappy, so be it. I think the bill actually makes a deal more probable, rather than less, because I don’t think the President would sign it if the situation were otherwise.

    The notion that this is an example of “corruption” is laughable, and the case against Menendez has nothing to do with Iran, in my view; Menendez is from New Jersey, which has a dysfunctional political culture, and there have been rumors of corruption since he was in Congress.

    Overwhelmingly, Americans want Congress to have a role in affirming any agreement the President makes with Iran. That’s why the bill has bipartisan support, and why, ultimately, the White House will sign it. While the Executive Branch is paramount in foreign policy, Congress involving itself in foreign policy matters where there is this much public interest, and frankly, this much risk, is nothing new. It’s called democracy.

    • traintosiberia
      traintosiberia on April 17, 2015, 12:37 am

      Legally and morally Iran can ask it since it has never pursued any weaponization of nuclear program.
      But Iran hasn’t . It has demanded the sanctions to be removed in tandem as both sides take steps .

    • ziusudra
      ziusudra on April 17, 2015, 3:49 am

      Greetings Hophmi,
      ……This is how people stake out negociating positions…….
      I agree when negociating with Israel & US :
      ‘make no demands, we give none.’
      Israel:Had the Palestinians remained at the bargaining table, they could have achieved peace, but they crumbled after only 18 yrs! We cannot put up with such weaknesses.
      …it’s called Democracy…
      I agree with you again, but the three branches of Government have separate powers. Foreign policy is done by the Pres. for Agreements. Treaties & Acts of War are placed in the hands of Congress. This precedent set by this Rep. Congress will work both ways in the future, but not for US Democracy.
      …Americans want Congress to have a role…..
      Wha’? The majority voted in Pres Obama to do what he is doing!

    • Nevada Ned
      Nevada Ned on April 17, 2015, 4:44 pm

      Hophmi, I wouldn’t call it democracy.
      US public opinion has been trumped by an Israeli lobby.

      Decades ago, Menachem Begin blurted out the truth during a confrontation with then-President Jimmy Carter. Begin said to Carter, “Mr. President, I have more votes on Capitol Hill than you do!”

      AIPAC ought to register as an agent of a foreign power.

    • NickJOCW
      NickJOCW on April 18, 2015, 8:59 am

      Hophmi, You may be misreading the basis of these negotiations. Iran has ever made it clear they went into them to get the sanctions lifted. That’s like buying a house or whatever. The negotiations are about the price, in this case the nature and amount of assurances the other side requires before agreeing to lift sanctions. Either terms are agreed and the sale is goes through or they are not and it doesn’t. As for those who harp on about the harm sanctions are doing to the Iranian economy, which nation’s economy is not troubled? While the West in simply losing commercial benefits Iranian ingenuity is opening up a whole new set of economic opportunities, so it is will be a pity for them if the sale doesn’t go through but not the end of the world. Besides, Europe will probably lift their sanctions, or just let them fall away, so Peugeot and others will be back in Tehran while US corporations pace the hall, helpless as expectant fathers.

    • Keith
      Keith on April 18, 2015, 7:48 pm

      HOPHMI- “Iran also said that it wanted sanctions lifted before anything happens.”

      A wise precaution in view of Uncle Sam’s history of violating treaties. The US signed several hundred treaties with the American Indians and broke every one of them. And, of course, there is the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty where the US solemnly committed itself to the elimination of nuclear weapons and has flouted ever since, America planning on spending up to $1 trillion over the next three decades to upgrade its nuclear arsenal.

  2. JLewisDickerson
    JLewisDickerson on April 16, 2015, 2:06 pm

    RE: “Journalists owe it to their audiences to begin exposing why Congress is so responsive to a foreign power.” ~ Weiss

    MY COMMENT: It is very unlikely to ever significantly happen in the mainstream/corporate media!

    FROM WIKIPEDIA [Manufacturing Consent]:

    [EXCERPTS] “Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media” (1988), by Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky, is an analysis of the news media, arguing that the mass media of the United States “are effective and powerful ideological institutions that carry out a system-supportive propaganda function by reliance on market forces, internalized assumptions, and self-censorship, and without overt coercion”.*[1] . . .

    Editorial bias: five filters

    Herman and Chomsky’s “propaganda model” describes five editorially distorting filters applied to news reporting in mass media:
    Size, Ownership, and Profit Orientation: The dominant mass-media outlets are large firms which are run for profit. Therefore they must cater to the financial interest of their owners – often corporations or particular controlling investors. The size of the firms is a necessary consequence of the capital requirements for the technology to reach a mass audience.
    The Advertising License to Do Business: Since the majority of the revenue of major media outlets derives from advertising (not from sales or subscriptions), advertisers have acquired a “de-facto licensing authority”.[4] Media outlets are not commercially viable without the support of advertisers. News media must therefore cater to the political prejudices and economic desires of their advertisers. This has weakened the working-class press, for example, and also helps explain the attrition in the number of newspapers.
    Sourcing Mass Media News: Herman and Chomsky argue that “the large bureaucracies of the powerful subsidize the mass media, and gain special access . . . acquiring […] and producing, news. The large entities that provide this subsidy become ‘routine’ news sources and have privileged access to the gates. Non-routine sources must struggle for access, and may be ignored by the arbitrary decision of the gatekeepers.”[5]
    Flak and the Enforcers: “Flak” refers to negative responses to a media statement or program (e.g. letters, complaints, lawsuits, or legislative actions). Flak can be expensive to the media, either due to loss of advertising revenue, or due to the costs of legal defense or defense of the media outlet’s public image. Flak can be organized by powerful, private influence groups (e.g. think tanks). The prospect of eliciting flak can be a deterrent to the reporting of certain kinds of facts or opinions.[5]
    Anti-Communism: This was included as a filter in the original 1988 edition of the book, but Chomsky argues that since the end of the Cold War (1945–91), anticommunism was replaced by the “War on Terror”, as the major social control mechanism.[6][7] . . .

    SOURCE –


    • traintosiberia
      traintosiberia on April 17, 2015, 12:39 am

      Not that long ago I came across this assertion that Israel not only provides the news and forces what to be aired but it also decides what kind of advertisement would be allowed and what not.

  3. JLewisDickerson
    JLewisDickerson on April 16, 2015, 3:04 pm

    RE: the photo of Netanyahu

    MY OBSERVATION: So, Netanyahu wasn’t content to just ‘give us the finger’ – he had to give us a “twofer”. Incredible! ! !
    That’s so rude!

    The finger –

  4. David Doppler
    David Doppler on April 16, 2015, 3:56 pm

    Thanks for the ongoing coverage on the coverage. It’s fits and starts, followed by return to hasbara central.

    O/T, Yahoo News has this report up about coalition building in Tel Aviv:

    It appears Netanyahu is having trouble getting Bennett and Lieberman to agree, having given up too much, from their perspective, to get Kahlon and the religious parties, so he keeps floating rumors of talks with Herzog about a unity government (unity in air quotes because he’s also floating the notion that his partner Livni would not be welcome, and Herzog has stated he will serve in opposition). Herzog denies having such talks, but rumors of them have the effect of further disempowering the extreme right-wingers, in an effort to force them to be more realistic (it was their base Netanyahu stole with his last minute racist/feamongering rants).

    This report repeats the threat of a unity government, but also includes the new threat of “even calling new elections,” which seems to signal some desperation on Netanyahu’s part. First, he doesn’t have the government yet to disband, and Rivlin could ask Herzog to form the government, if Netanyahu fails to get his right-wing dream government sewn together. Second, since firing Lapid and Livni and calling for new elections to secure a solid right-wing government, to paraphrase Hirohito, the situation has not necessarily developed to Netanyahu’s advantage. Obama has become more formidable in opposition to him, as Netanyahu against the advice of the sagest American Jews made highly partisan and Congressional the US’s ongoing support for Israel, and the P5+1 have emerged in unity on Obama’s side in that same dispute. He depends upon fear among the right wing of terrorists and Islamic would-be annihilators of Israel, and instead, Netanyahu’s behavior since calling elections is alienating the rest of the world from its traditional support for Israel, giving Israelis enhanced basis to fear isolation.

    Could the right-wingers who flocked in fear to Likud on the last election day be driven to do the same again, if Netanyahu couldn’t get a government formed with his more-right-wing partners, whose demands precipitate still another election?

  5. JWalters
    JWalters on April 16, 2015, 6:52 pm

    I too noticed Rachel tip-toeing up to that topic, and leaving it as a question. And it is a very logical question.

    And I fully agree “Journalists owe it to their audiences to begin exposing why Congress is so responsive to a foreign power.” That would entail exposing their employers. Dan Rather reported reporters don’t need a memo to know what to spike. Directions are given indirectly.

    • Kathleen
      Kathleen on April 16, 2015, 9:56 pm

      Rachel “tip-toeing” around the issue. As close as she gets

      • Citizen
        Citizen on April 18, 2015, 4:14 am

        Yes, Rachel did tip toe around the question, “Why this (congressional intervention), and only this one, to avert war, while Congress totally ignores the three US wars going on right now under Obama?”

        I thought to myself, watching her slowly winding up–would she actually spit it out, the answer to her own question? Say it Rachel, I cheered her on, say: the Israel lobby!

        No. She left it hanging. She likes her job, wants to keep it.

      • Kathleen
        Kathleen on April 18, 2015, 11:57 am

        And even up until the last six months Rachel repeated Israel and the I lobbies unsubstantiated claims about Iran.

  6. peterfeld
    peterfeld on April 16, 2015, 8:01 pm

    I think despite WH or Iran protests, this new Senate bill basically gives Obama what he needs – a delay in the vote without giving up supermajority protection. The deal doesn’t have to be approved by Congress — rather, Congress has an opportunity to pass a disapproval resolution that Obama can veto.

    So Congress will “get its say” (which the public will always support, though they don’t want the deal blocked). But only if 13 Democratic mischief-makers like Schumer, Cardin, Bennet and Blumenthal side with the GOP (assuming no Republicans support the deal) against Obama will the deal be killed. (He can also try to keep the House override vote under 2/3.)

    Those votes won’t take place until after the deal is final — a better environment than now, and on better terms than trying to sustain a Corker-Mendacious veto would have been (i.e., debate will be about the deal itself, not whether Congress should have a say, pressuring Dems). I have a feeling at that time Schumer will make a big show of resistance, then back Obama.

    • Citizen
      Citizen on April 18, 2015, 4:42 am

      Iran’s top priority is to have the sanctions lifted as soon as the Deal is signed. Obama didn’t want to risk having his veto overridden by a handful of Israel First democrats doing the swing over, a la Schumer, so he conceded the point Congress could simply refuse to lift the sanctions, any or all of them as soon as the ink was dry on the Deal. Bibi/AIPAC won. Or what? Didn’t Bibi get his “better deal”? Just short of war, or prelude to war?

  7. Kathleen
    Kathleen on April 16, 2015, 9:59 pm

    And the nay sayers spin their hooey that the I lobby, Israel has no power, no effect on the direction of our foreign policy or towards another unnecessary war Referring to facts about the disproportionate influence that Israel and the I lobby have as “anti-semitic trope”

  8. Kathleen
    Kathleen on April 16, 2015, 11:34 pm

    Have followed what former Army officer and CIA analyst Ray McGovern has said and written since before the invasion of Iraq. He of course stood solidly against the invasion. He has a zinger up over at Counterpunch “The Kremlin and the NeoCons”

    He pounds Wolfowitz and his killing team. He mentions Jodi Ruderon’s reporting.

    • oldgeezer
      oldgeezer on April 17, 2015, 1:43 am

      wolfowitz is one of the most vile people walking on the planet today. I have no love for republicans or bush but was astounded to read that Jeb was reported to have hired him. Given his past and lack of personal ethics having abused his appointment to the world bank for personal gain I can only shake my head.

      The man should be rotting in a jail cell and has no positive redeeming points.

      • Kay24
        Kay24 on April 17, 2015, 7:28 am

        For those who missed a brilliant episode of Jon Stewart, here is an equally despicable culprit, who seems to have no remorse for killing so many Arabs, based on lies.

        Must watch episode from yesterday:

      • Kathleen
        Kathleen on April 17, 2015, 11:03 am

        Wolfowitz is at the top of the war criminal list who should be on trial at the Hague. Instead heading Jeb Bush’s foreign policy team. The target is still Iran and you can be sure if Jeb gets in that would be the next stop. Hillary is a bit scary in that arena too.

        The McGovern piece at Counterpunch is worth the read

  9. traintosiberia
    traintosiberia on April 16, 2015, 11:47 pm

    The New Jersey Record reported last month that pro-Israel activists were coming out in droves for Menendez because he was taking Obama on over Iran:”

    There are 2 parts here , one is universal ,constant,and consistent.
    Other is more localized in space and time
    1 G Bush increased his votes enormously and so did the GOP in contemporary Congressional election among the Jewish voters .
    The claims of the loyalty to the ideals of progressive democratic parties agenda is pure fiction and is the front ,like the shell company in trade and commerce .When the self interest ( even illegal interests) rise,so does the desertion.
    2 More localized and personal is the nature of the personal betrayal of Obama- a man who has sustained silence over three brutal attacks on Gaza during his tenure , a man who has ignored settlements ,a man who has supplied with free arms and munitions of 40 billions dollars worth as compensation to the sale of arms to Saudi , a man who has vetoed UN resolution, a man who has done the biddings ( Israel) in Libya,Egypt and almost did in Syria is still an object of contempt,racial comments,and a persona non grata . This is the way he has been paid back . Why? For he did not attack Iran!

  10. SonofDaffyDuck
    SonofDaffyDuck on April 17, 2015, 9:55 am

    I think that if you would address the picture at the beginning of this piece and photoshop out just the raised finger on the left, the result an image perfectly emblematic of Netanyahus attitude toward the Americans not on the payroll.

  11. David Doppler
    David Doppler on April 17, 2015, 11:52 am

    Here’s Chris Toensing at suggesting that the US’s $3B in military aid to Israel be put on the chopping block.

    The break between Netanyahu and Obama has occurred, and Obama is playing the adult attempting an intervention in chronic, harmful behavior. He needs to keep escalating until the bad behaving friend gets the message and changes. Nothing should be sacrosanct when it is beyond clear that US funds are going to pay for war crimes.

    Obama doesn’t seem like much of a student of Machiavelli, “never do an enemy a small injury,” and “the injury that is done to a man ought to be of such a kind that one does not stand in fear of revenge,” and shortened by Emerson to “Never strike a king unless you are sure you shall kill him.”

    Obama’s little campaign of a thousand paper cuts against a cornered, hard-right megalomaniac armed with nukes, Mossad and AIPAC, is a very dangerous game, best brought to a close very soon.

    • lysias
      lysias on April 17, 2015, 12:07 pm

      If Israel relies for the delivery of those nukes on GPS guidance provided by U.S. satellites, maybe those nukes can be rendered unusable.

      Even if Israel has its own GPS guidance, perhaps that can be jammed.

  12. Theo
    Theo on April 17, 2015, 12:45 pm

    Sen. Menendez is a traitor, among with many of our elected representatives, and I wish to live the day when all of them will be charged and sentenced.

    One must ask the question: which country is the superpower that wants to run this world and does the dog wag its tail or is it the other way around.

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