by Jim Lobe
As foes of a nuclear deal with Iran prepare new sanctions legislation that the Obama administration firmly opposes, Arkansas’s new Republican senator, Tom Cotton, told a policy conference at the far-right Heritage Foundation Tuesday that the pending bills, which could be unveiled at any moment, are intended to sabotage the ongoing negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 (U.S., U.K, France, Russia, China plus Germany).
The United States must cease all appeasement, conciliation and concessions towards Iran, starting with the sham nuclear negotiations. Certain voices call for congressional restraint, urging Congress not to act now lest Iran walk away from the negotiating table, undermining the fabled yet always absent moderates in Iran. But, the end of these negotiations isn’t an unintended consequence of Congressional action, it is very much an intended consequence. A feature, not a bug, so to speak.[Emphasis added.]
Of course, the Republican sponsors of the pending legislation, notably American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) point man Sen. Mark Kirk, have insisted that their bill is intended only to strengthen the administration’s hand at the negotiating table by lining up harsh new sanctions that take effect only if Tehran fails to accede to U.S. demands by the July deadline for reaching a comprehensive agreement. That’s certainly the pitch being put out by Sen. Robert Menendez, another AIPAC loyalist, to persuade his fellow-Democrats to sign up. And, if a sufficient number of Democrats go along, a veto-proof majority may be attainable. In that context, Cotton’s declaration is refreshingly candid and should serve as a warning to wavering Democrats.
Readers of this blog may recall that Eli, who Wednesday broke the story that casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson contributed almost a third of the budget of United Against a Nuclear Iran (UANI) in 2013, reported last November that the Emergency Committee for Israel (ECI) provided nearly a million dollars to Cotton’s campaign in the final weeks of last fall’s campaign. Co-directed by Bill Kristol, whose Weekly Standard has long been especially hawkish on Iran, ECI has criticized AIPAC for its tendency to compromise with Democrats. When AIPAC last year more or less suspended its efforts to get the Kirk-Menendez sanctions bill through the Senate in the face of strong Democratic opposition, ECI issued a thinly veiled attack on Washington’s premier pro-Israel lobby:
It would be nice if there were universal bipartisan support for acting now to stop a nuclear Iran. But there apparently is not. And it would be terrible if history’s judgment on the pro-Israel community was that it made a fetish of bipartisanship—and got a nuclear Iran.
Now AIPAC is at it again, working with Kirk and New Jersey Senator Robert Menendez to craft a new version of the Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act that can attract more than the 16 Democrats who last year agreed to co-sponsor the bill (although some of those backed away under pressure from the White House and anti-war constituents). Their strategy is to remove the provisions that most obviously violated U.S. undertakings in 2013’s Joint Plan of Action (JPOA), under which Washington agreed not to introduce new sanctions measures while the accord is in effect. And, while the new legislation will indeed appear a lot cleaner than last year’s version, there will be no getting around the fact that this sanctions bill will be used by hardliners in Iran—as well as by responsible diplomatic officials in the other P5+1 capitals—to argue that Washington is not negotiating in good faith and cannot, in any event, be trusted to provide the sanctions relief Iran expects in a final deal.
So, while AIPAC, Kirk, and Menendez make all kinds of soothing noises about how their new bill is intended only to support the president’s efforts to conclude a comprehensive agreement with Iran, Democrats should be listening very carefully to Cotton, ECI, and Kristol to determine its true intent.