AIPAC’s Iran Strategy On Sanctions Mirrors Run-Up To Iraq War Tactics

Posted with the permission of Think Progress

The decision of more than 90 U.S. senators to press President Obama for Iraq-style sanctions on Iran flew in the face of what some observers warned could be the beginning of a stress test of the international support for pressuring Iran and another step closer to a potential war with the Islamic Republic.

But a Tuesday press release [PDF] from the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) brings to mind eery parallels between the escalation of sanctions against Iran and the slow lead up to the invasion of Iraq in 2003. The press release read:

AIPAC applauds today’s bipartisan letter—signed by 92 U.S. Senators—to the administration urging it to sanction the Central Bank of Iran (CBI), or Bank Markazi. The letter, spearheaded by Senators Charles Schumer (D-NY) and Mark Kirk (R-IL), notes that the CBI lies at the center of Iran’s strategy to circumvent international sanctions against its illicit nuclear program.

Sanctioning Bank Markazi might, as mentioned by the Wall Street Journal’s Jay Solomon, be interpreted as an act of war. But that doesn’t seem to bother AIPAC. Indeed, they’ve been down this sanctions road once before before the invasion of Iraq.

In June, Robert Dreyfuss interviewed former AIPAC senior Iran analyst Keith Weissman who offered details of how AIPAC and its allies in the Bush administration pushed the allegation that Saddam Hussein was in league with al Qaeda. More importantly, Weissman discusses AIPAC’s plans for ultimately bringing regime change in Iran. Dreyfuss writes:

Weissman says that Iran was alarmed at the possibility that the United States might engage in overt and covert efforts to instigate opposition inside Iran. He says that many in AIPAC, especially among its lay leadership and biggest donors, strongly backed regime change in Iran. “That was what Larry [Franklin] and his friends wanted,” he says. “It included lots of different parts, like broadcasts, giving money to groups that would conduct sabotage, it included bringing the Mojahedin[-e Khalgh], bringing them out of Iraq and letting them go back to Iran to carry out missions for the United States. Harold Rhode backed this…. There were all these guys, Michael Ledeen, ‘Next stop Tehran, next stop Damascus.’

Indeed, as shown in the AIPAC press release, Iran is now the target of similar sanctions and bellicose rhetoric similar to those that targeted Iraq in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Sanctioning Iran’s central bank and imposing a de facto oil embargo on Iranian oil exports would appear to be pages torn from the playbook before the invasion of Iraq.

If the current evidence that AIPAC is supporting an oil embargo isn’t convincing, consider Weissman’s comments on the oil industry’s support of AIPAC, and a boycott of Iranian oil, in the late 1990s:

Even Prince Bandar ibn Sultan, Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the United States, and Adel al-Jubeir — then the Saudi embassy spokesman and currently the ambassador — welcomed AIPAC’s work in helping to support the BTC pipeline and isolating Iran, its Persian Gulf rival, economically. Remembers Weissman:

“Prince Bandar used to send us messages. I used to meet with Adel al-Jubeir a couple times a year. Adel used to joke that if we could force an American embargo on Iranian oil, he’d buy us all Mercedes! Because Saudi [Arabia] would have had the excess capacity to make up for Iran at that time.”

It would appear that AIPAC is now using the same escalating measures against Iran that were used before the invasion of Iraq.

Eli Clifton

Eli Clifton reports on money in politics and US foreign policy. He is a co-founder of the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft. Eli previously reported for the American Independent News Network, ThinkProgress, and Inter Press Service.



  1. “Eery parallels.” Except it’s 2011, not 2002. Barack Obama is president, not George W. Bush. The administration is not honeycombed with neocons. Most importantly, the nation has gone through two wars over the past ten years, and has neither the stomach nor the money to fight another.

    Earth-shattering events are taking place right now, before our eyes. Yet apparently we are living in 2005, when Rummy and Cheney were still riding high. Go ahead, completely ignore the world as it changes, and busy yourselves with irrelevancies.

  2. There are a couple of important differences. First, we aren’t operating a “no-fly zone” and second, we have no support for our sanctions. Oh, maybe the EU will support it. But, unlike Iraq, China and Russia won’t heed these sanctions, and the Iranians will simply reflag or rely on Russia and Chinese ships to export Iranian goods. I trust we aren’t so stupid to provoke Russia/China so impetuously.

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