Future of JCPOA In Hands of GOP Indebted To Billionaire Iran Hawks

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by Eli Clifton

President Donald Trump’s decision to decertify the Iran nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), appears to have fallen in line with the views espoused by several of his top donors. These funders believe that Iran poses an apocalyptic threat only addressable through military action, including the use of nuclear weapons.

Two years ago, every Republican in Congress opposed the JCPOA. With the future of the agreement now in the hands of a GOP-controlled House and Senate, those same billionaire Iran hawks may hold a powerful influence over any Republican lawmaker contemplating voting against legislation designed to harm the JCPOA.

Indeed, the influence of these key donors—Sheldon Adelson, Bernard Marcus, and Paul Singer—over U.S. foreign policy, particularly with regards to Iran, doesn’t stop at the White House, where combined they contributed over $40 million to various pro-Trump political groups and causes.

Those three donors also contributed $65 million at the congressional level. That represents nearly half of the individual contributions made to the Senate Leadership Fund (CLF) and Congressional Leadership Fund (CLF), Super PACs dedicated to maintaining Republican majorities in the House and Senate. Those contributions provide a considerable incentive for Hill Republicans to stake out a hawkish position on the JCPOA.

Trump’s decision to punt the decision to Congress about whether to reimpose sanctions or attempt to unilaterally rewrite the JCPOA, a multilateral agreement, threatens to unravel the nuclear deal and/or put the U.S. into noncompliance with the accord.

Republican members of Congress owe a great deal to the CLF and the SLF. In the 2016 election cycle the two GOP Super PACs were some of the biggest sources of independent expenditures in House and Senate races. The SLF was the biggest spender in the 2016 election cycle after Priorities USA Action (a Hillary Clinton-supporting Super PAC) and Right to Rise USA (a Jeb Bush-supporting Super PAC).

The CLF raised $50 million in individual contributions and the SLF raised $90 million in individual contributions in the past election cycle. That is in no small part thanks to Adelson, Marcus, and Singer, three of the Republican Party’s biggest donors. They also provide millions in funding to hawkish think tanks like the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), which regularly promotes military intervention against Iran. Adelson and Marcus, in particular, have been outspoken in their opposition to the JCPOA and expressing their extreme hostility toward Iran.

Adelson, who actually suggested firing a nuclear weapon at Iran as a negotiating tactic, alongside his wife, Miriam, are the biggest overall donors to both the CLF and SLF as well as Trump’s largest campaign donor. They contributed $20 million to the CLF and $35 million to the SLF. Adelson, via John Bolton, may have helped inject language into Trump’s speech last week decertifying the JCPOA. Politico reported (my emphasis):

The line was added to Trump’s speech after Bolton, despite Kelly’s recent edict [limiting Bolton’s access to Trump], reached the president by phone on Thursday afternoon from Las Vegas, where Bolton was visiting with Republican megadonor Sheldon Adelson. Bolton urged Trump to include a line in his remarks noting that he reserved the right to scrap the agreement entirely, according to two sources familiar with the conversation.

 

Trump wound up saying that the agreement “is under continuous review, and our participation can be canceled by me, as president, at any time.” Bolton declined to comment on any conversation with the president.

Singer, who was the second largest source of funds supporting Sen. Tom Cotton’s (R-AR) campaign, contributed $1.9 million to the CLF and $6 million to the SLF.

Cotton, an outspoken critic of the Iran deal and proponent of pursuing a regime-change strategy in Iran, reportedly advised the White House on decertifying the agreement. He is the cosponsor of legislation that would institute automatic reinstatement of sanctions if Iran comes within a year of a nuclear weapons capability and eliminates the JCPOA’s sunset clauses, effectively rewriting the agreement and potentially putting the U.S. in violation of the accord.

Marcus contributed $500,000 to the CLF and $2 million to the SLF. He is Trump’s second biggest campaign donor after the Adelsons and contributes tens of millions of dollars to FDD and other groups opposing the JCPOA.

In a 2015 Fox Business interview, he compared the JCPOA to “do[ing] business with the devil” and, in case he wasn’t clear about who “the devil” was in his metaphor, clarified “I think Iran is the devil.”

Adelson, Singer, and Marcus’s combined contributions account for 44% of individual contributions received by the CLF and 47% of those received by the SLF. Marcus and Singer are already spending on the SLF for the 2018 cycle. Singer contributed $1 million and Marcus contributed $2 million, providing over a quarter of the $11.13 million the Super PAC has raised for the coming election.

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Eli Clifton

Eli Clifton reports on money in politics and US foreign policy. Eli previously reported for the American Independent News Network, ThinkProgress, and Inter Press Service.

8 Comments

  1. This nation is called a democracy, and is alleged to be a model for others? Money rules every bit of the “government”, and the sheeple have no say.

  2. re: He is the cosponsor of legislation that would institute automatic reinstatement of sanctions if Iran comes within a year of a nuclear weapons capability.

    I quote the definition of the commonly-used term “nuclear breakout” and then some news reports. Some refer to having material and others to having a weapon, which would take additional time, testing, etc.
    >“breakout”— defined as the amount of time that it would take Iran to produce sufficient weapons-grade uranium or plutonium for one nuclear weapon

    from various news reports:
    >sanctions on Iran if its ‘breakout time,’ or how long it takes to produce enough material for a nuclear weapon, slips under one year.
    > reimpose U.S. sanctions on Iran if it hits a “breakout period” of being able to build a nuclear weapon in less than a year.
    >Under the changes being proposed by Corker and Cotton, sanctions would be automatically reimposed if Iran comes within a year of obtaining a nuclear weapon.
    >institute an automatic reinstatement of penalties against Iran if the nation comes within a year of nuclear capability.

  3. Who would decide that Iran has a breakout time of less than a year?
    There are so many assumptions that have to be made, the result is at best an estimation, not a fact.
    So, watch the details of the Congressional bill on this point. If it just says “the President” has decided, we will be in deep trouble. John Bolton will whisper in his ear.

  4. So, in the final analysis, its all about the Republicans wanting “mo’ money, mo’ money, mo’ money!” *
    * as the Wayans brothers were wont to say on “In Living Color”

  5. 10 years ago, the IAEA director ElBaradei reported that about 40 nations could build nukes quickly if they wanted to do so. “Breakout” is a myth and pretext, it can mean whatever you want it to mean at any time.

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