by Eli Clifton
In July, Iran and the P5+1 countries signed the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), under which Iran, in exchange for sanctions relief, would reduce its low-enriched uranium levels by 98%, eliminate its medium-enriched uranium stockpile, and reduce the number of its centrifuges by two-thirds. It was the product of nearly two years of negotiations as parties worked toward a long-term agreement to resolve tensions over Iran’s nuclear program.
But we’re only beginning to get some peeks behind the curtain at the funding, alliances, and odd bedfellows that comprised the opposition to the Obama administration’s signature foreign policy achievement. New evidence points to an unlikely pairing between one of the Republican Party’s biggest donors and a controversial apocalyptic Christian Zionist organization, Christians United for Israel (CUFI), whose leader has gone so far as to say that Adolf Hitler was doing God’s work by bringing the Jews back to Israel.
Tens of millions of dollars were spent in efforts to oppose the Iran nuclear deal, led by a $20 million campaign underwritten by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). Ultimately, after nearly two years of negotiations, lobbying, and public debate, Senate Republicans failed to block the nuclear deal in September 2015.
Casino billionaires and Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) board member Sheldon Adelson made no secret of his animosity toward the nuclear deal. He proposed launching a first-strike nuclear attack on Iran as a negotiating tactic. But his unconditional support of a hawkish foreign policy agenda in the Middle East—as well as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s growth of settlements in areas previously expected to be part of a future Palestinian state –seems to have brought him, and his money, in line with CUFI.
Tax filings reviewed by LobeLog show that Adelson contributed $1.82 million to CUFI in the 2014 tax year. The Adelson Family Foundation contributed to CUFI in the previous two years ($125,000 in 2013 and $25,000 in 2012), but the 2014 contribution marked a 14-fold increase in size over the foundation’s 2013 grant.
CUFI’s Controversial Claims
CUFI certainly took a vocal stance against nuclear diplomacy with Iran, sending email blasts to its membership about the Iran deal and making the negotiations the central topic of its 2014 annual summit in Washington.
Quick to embrace apocalyptic rhetoric, CUFI emailed its supporters when the Obama administration decided to extend talks with Iran beyond the November 24th deadline, telling them “the world took yet another step down the plank towards a dark abyss” and warned that Obama and his negotiating team either naively believe the Iranians were negotiating in good faith “or they are lying to the American people.”
The email concluded:
The only people who still seem to take Iran at its word are President Obama, Secretary Kerry and chief negotiator Wendy Sherman. Either that, or they are lying to the American people. Neither option is acceptable.
In June, 2015, CUFI held a conference call for its supporters, during which Wall Street Journal columnist Bret Stephens, who himself advocated for the invasion of Iraq, advised the group on how to lobby Congress to oppose the Iran nuclear deal. Glenn Greenwald reported that Stephens told CUFI:
Someone should say, “this is going to be like your vote for the Iraq War. This is going to come back to haunt you. Mark my words, it will come back to haunt you. Because as Iran cheats, as Iran becomes more powerful, and Iran will be both of those things, you will be held to account. This vote will be a stain. You will have to walk away from it at some point or another. You will have to explain it. And some of you may in fact lose your seats because of your vote for this deal. You’ll certainly lose a lot of financial support from some of your previous supporters.”
CUFI and its chairman, John Hagee, have a long history of courting controversy.
In November 2014, the organization drew criticism from the Anti-Defamation League after its chairman, John Hagee, called Obama “one of the most anti-Semitic presidents in the history of the United States of America.” The ADL said his comments were “offensive and misplaced.”
Hagee’s own comments, however, have frequently veered into strange, and seemingly anti-Semitic, territory.
In a 2003 sermon, Hagee said that the Antichrist will be “partially Jewish, as was Adolf Hitler, as was Karl Marx.” In a 2006 book, Hagee appeared to blame anti-Semitism on Jews, writing, “It was the disobedience and rebellion of the Jews… that gave rise to the opposition and persecution that they experienced beginning in Canaan and continuing to this very day.”
He went on to blame the rise of anti-Semitism on Jewish idol worship:
How utterly repulsive, insulting, and heartbreaking to God for his chosen people to credit idols with bringing blessings he had showered upon the chosen people. Their own rebellion had birthed the seed of anti-Semitism that would arise and bring destruction to them for centuries to come.
Courting the Born-Again Vote
Adelson’s decision to pour funding into the controversial group is probably closely linked with born-again and evangelical Christians’ largely unconditional support of the hawkish policies undertaken by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a personal friend of the Las Vegas-based billionaire.
A Bloomberg Politics poll from April found that “[b]orn-again Christians are more likely than overall poll respondents, 58 percent to 35 percent, to back Israel regardless of U.S. interests.”
Adelson isn’t the only RJC director to engage in outreach to Christian Zionists and seek their support in opposing the Iran nuclear deal.
In March, I reported that hedge-fund billionaire Paul Singer was behind The Philos Project, a new group whose mission statement includes “educating Christians on the theological, historical, and political issues surrounding Israel and the Jewish people.”
The Philos Project, like CUFI, engages in fear-mongering and apocalyptic rhetoric about Iran. “Iran doesn’t mind killing people,” “Iran is working toward a nuclear weapon,” “Iran hates Christianity,” and “Iranian leaders see themselves as bringing about the end of history,” says a Philos Project article on “why we should worry about Iran.”
Photo: John Hagee