Ex-AIPACer Weissman comes out hard against military action in Iran

By Daniel Luban

In March, former AIPAC chief lobbyist Douglas Bloomfield wrote a very interesting piece for the New Jersey Jewish News. In it, he revealed that although AIPAC publicly professed support for the Oslo peace process in the 1990s, it was secretly coordinating with then-opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu and working behind the scenes to sabotage the process. By illustrating AIPAC’s willingness to work against the policies of both U.S. and Israeli governments when they proved insufficiently hawkish, Bloomfield noted, this information could “not only validate AIPAC’s critics, who accuse it of being a branch of the Likud, but also lead to an investigation of violations of the Foreign Agents Registration Act.”

Bloomfield had another interesting piece in Tuesday’s Jerusalem Post, in which he interviewed AIPAC’s former top Iran analyst Keith Weissman. Weissman, of course, is best known for his role in the recently-dropped “AIPAC Two” espionage case, which revolved around accusations that he and AIPAC political director Steve Rosen received classified information from Pentagon analyst Lawrence Franklin and passed it to reporters and Israeli embassy officials. Franklin pled guilty in 2006 and was sentenced to over 12 year in prison, but this month government prosecutors decided to drop charges against Rosen and Weissman after concluding that they would be unlikely to win convictions.

Now that he is out from under the espionage charges, Weissman is free to speak his mind, and in his interview with Bloomfield he attacks the Iran hawks (including, implicitly, his former bosses at AIPAC) in startlingly blunt terms. The whole thing is worth reading, but I’ve included a few excerpts below the fold.

First, Weissman attacks the hawks’ premise that military action would be effective:

There’s no assurance an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities – even if all of them could be located – would be anything more than a temporary setback, Weissman told me. Instead, a military strike would unify Iranians behind an unpopular regime, ignite a wave of retaliation that would leave thousands dead from Teheran to Tel Aviv, block oil exports from the Persian Gulf and probably necessitate a ground war, he said.

He also attacks the idea, propagated by Netanyahu among others, that Iran’s rulers are a “messianic apocalyptic cult” and therefore undeterrable:

Weissman said Israel’s worries about Iran getting a nuclear weapon are understandable, but despite some of the rhetoric coming out of Teheran, the Iranian leaders “are not fanatics and they’re not suicidal. They know that Israel could make Iran glow for many years.”

He endorses the Obama administration’s argument that progress on the Israeli-Palestinian front is necessary for progress on the Iranian front, and attacks Netanyahu’s claim that the Iranian threat is sufficient to unite Israel with the so-called “moderate Arab states”:

Trying to separate the issues, even refusing to endorse the two-state approach, “is part of the sophistry of people like [Binyamin] Netanyahu who want to avoid confronting the peace process,” he said. “Iran’s ability to screw around in the Israel-Arab arena would be severely impaired by pressing ahead on the Palestinian and Syrian tracks instead of looking for excuses not to.”

Finally, he argues that the U.S. and Israel will “have to end up accepting some kind of peaceful Iranian nuclear energy program – and they actually need it; it’s already too late to stop it entirely.”

Weissman’s apostasy on the Iran issue puts him much closer to the likes of Roger Cohen than to his former compatriots at AIPAC. It will be interesting to see whether the neoconservatives who rallied to his defense during the AIPAC Two affair will now try to bury him the same way they have tried to bury Cohen.

Daniel Luban

Daniel Luban is a postdoctoral associate at Yale University. He holds a PhD in politics from the University of Chicago and was formerly a correspondent in the Washington bureau of Inter Press Service.



  1. Well Weissman, welcome to the sanity train. I wonder if you made such compelling arguments in the halls where dissent can never be allowed to breach decorum? Or, did you hold your tongue.

    Tolstoy has an extraordinary “Letter to Liberals” that all should read. By his formulation Libertarians, Liberals all earnest folk would qualify as “liberals.” He says that to only speak when you agree and hold your tongue, you sell your credibility to those venal thugs you accompany.

  2. I agree with Bruce. The irony is that so far Israel walked over the UN and global opinion, secure in the knowledge that every time things get hot in the UN, the US will come to its rescue. What is interesting now, is that Israel is telling the Americans that whether we get your support or not, we will go ahead and carry on our draconian policy of genocide against the Palestinians. So it boils down to, that Israel really could not care what the US administrations policy is, so long they get bankrolled by the American taxpayers. How long would the US be able to afford it? Would the Israeli parasite cause the death of its American host?

  3. This is good news, but former AIPAC arguing with present AIPAC over aggression towards Iran isn’t progress. “I’m not opposed to bombing Iran, I just play like I am on television.” Controlling both sides of an argument is a sure fire way of winning that argument and establishing the mental frameworks the public will rely on to make sense of the underlying issue. If AIPAC publicly supported Olso but worked behind the scenes to defeat it, is it a huge stretch to suggest they would plant a ‘defector’ in order to position him as an ideal debate foe?

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