by Jim Lobe
The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) has published the list of senators who so far have agreed to co-sponsor the Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act of 2013, aka the Wag the Dog Act of 2014. You’ll recall that the initial list, which was introduced by its principal engineers, Sens. Mark Kirk and Robert Menendez, Dec 19, included 26 co-sponsors equally divided between Democrats and Republicans, to which newly elected New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker quickly added his name. Since then, 20 other senators — all Republicans, unsurprisingly — have added their names, for a grand total of 47 — still short of a majority, let alone one that could survive an Obama veto that the White House has already committed the president to cast if the bill is passed in its present form.
According to the AIPAC list, which is reproduced below, 53 senators, including 36 Democrats and the two independents who normally vote with the Democratic caucus, have not agreed to co-sponsor the bill, or, in the dreaded moniker used by AIPAC to score lawmakers’ voting records (presumably for the benefit of the “pro-Israel” PACs that decide how to dole out campaign cash), are labeled “DNC.” They will undoubtedly be the top targets for AIPAC’s legendary powers of persuasion when the Senate reconvenes early next week.
What is remarkable about this list, however, is that very few of the 47 co-sponsors have chosen to publicize their support for the bill to their constituents through local media or other means. A handful of the original co-sponsors put out press releases, as did Rob Portman, a late joiner. Lamar Alexander, another late-comer, courageously “tweeted” his backing for the bill. “If this were a bill senators were excited about; that is, something they thought they’d earn a lot of credit for — and not draw a lot of heat — from their voters, you’d think all of the co-sponsors would be proudly touting their support,” one veteran Hill observer told me. “Clearly, even for the Republican [co-sponsors], that doesn’t seem to be the case with this bill.”
In other words, the co-sponsors appear to be targeting a very narrow constituency — AIPAC, which is now touting their names — rather than their voters back home, most of whom probably have no idea of what their senator’s position is or what may be at stake. Which raises an interesting question: If the folks back home knew that their senator was supporting a bill that would make another war in the Middle East more, rather than less likely, would there be an outcry as there was after Obama (and AIPAC) asked Congress to approve military action against Syria? Would some senators feel compelled to reassess their support?
One other point: others — most recently and convincingly, Colin Kahl and Paul Pillar — have argued just how counter-productive and potentially dangerous this bill is, and we have republished their arguments for the benefit of LobeLog readers in recent days. But it should be stressed that the 47 co-sponsors of this bill, most notably the 14 Democrats who have signed on to it, have effectively decided that Bibi Netanyahu and AIPAC are more credible sources about Iran and what it is likely to do in the P5+1 negotiations if this sanctions bill becomes law than either the U.S. diplomats who are directly involved in the talks or the U.S. intelligence community. Which is a rather startling fact, especially given, for example, Bibi’s predictive record on Iraq in the run-up to the U.S. invasion and his quarrels with his own intelligence community with respect to Iran.
U.S. officials beginning at the top with Obama, then running through John Kerry and Wendy Sherman have stated repeatedly that the passage of a new sanctions bill — even one that would take effect prospectively — would not only violate the spirit, if not the letter, of the Nov. 24 agreement; it would also call into serious question Washington’s good faith; quite possibly isolate the U.S. within the P5+1 with disastrous results for the existing sanctions regime; and sufficiently strengthen hardliners in Tehran to force its government to toughen its demands at the negotiating table, if not abandon the diplomatic path altogether (and with it the chances of a peaceful diplomatic settlement). As the most recent assessment by the intelligence community, for which these same 47 senators have approved annual budgets ranging as high as 70 billion dollars in recent years, concluded: “[N]ew sanctions would undermine the prospects for a successful comprehensive nuclear agreement with Iran.”
Of course, that’s precisely why Netanyahu and AIPAC are pushing the new sanctions package.
The Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act of 2013
Below is a list of senators who have cosponsored or indicated their intention to cosponsor The Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act of 2013.
47 Members Who Cosponsored
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53 Members Who Did Not Cosponsor
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