by Jim Lobe
It seems that the stridently anti-deal United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI) and its president until today, Gary Samore—who has spoken in favor of the Iranian nuclear deal—have sealed an amicable agreement to divorce, effective immediate.
In a press release issued late Monday, UANI’s long-standing CEO, Amb. Mark Wallace, announced that Samore, a former top Obama non-proliferation adviser now at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard, is being replaced by (drumroll…) former Sen. Joseph Lieberman, a man whose consistently hawkish views on Iran, are far more in tune with UANI’s militancy. This is what Laura Rozen appropriately called “regime change.”
As we at LobeLog have long noted, Samore’s interest in diplomacy, and his more recent support for the Joint Comprehensive Program of Action (JCPOA), raised serious questions as to why he served as president of an organization that was resolutely opposed to any accord that would permit Tehran to retain any part of its nuclear program. Aside from UANI’s own internal structure—Wallace and other staff members were paid based on their positions in mining companies owned by the organization’s biggest 2013 donor, Thomas Kaplan—the fact that its second biggest donor was Sheldon Adelson should have scared Samore away in the first place. Adelson, of course, famously suggested that the best way to deal with Iran’s nuclear program was to detonate a nuclear bomb in an Iranian desert and then threaten to drop another “in the middle of Tehran” unless it dismantles its nuclear infrastructure.
What is particularly intriguing is the timing of the change, which probably should have taken place when Samore began making clear his support for the administration’s efforts to conclude a deal last spring. Of course, the battle over the deal is now much more intense—probably more so than any other foreign policy fight since the Iraq war—and many millions of dollars are being spent to try to kill it in Congress. But I suspect that the anti-deal forces, which are now clearly led by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), are determined to centralize control over the campaign. As I wrote back in April, AIPAC was clearly very unhappy with Samore’s public positions, and his replacement by Lieberman suggests that AIPAC probably exerted considerable pressure on UANI to implement the coup.
The former senator is the most prominent and outspoken member of the small “advisory board” of the new, AIPAC-created group, Citizens for a Nuclear Free Iran (CNFI)—to which $20-$40 million dollars have reportedly been committed—which is continuously running factually challenged ads on network and cable news shows. CNFI’s director, Patrick Dorton, used to work for AIPAC, according to the Sunlight Foundation. Lieberman also serves as co-chair with former Republican Sen. John Kyl of the “American Internationalism Project” at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), an organization that not only promoted, but also provided key architects of the Iraq War. In addition he is a Distinguished Adviser to the Foundation for Defense of Democracies with which readers of this blog are already well acquainted. And let’s not forget that Lieberman also served as co-chair of the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq (CLI) the neo-conservative group established by the Bush administration for the express purpose of mobilizing support for the Iraq war. (For those who are noting the overlap between Iraq war promoters and Iran deal saboteurs, Lieberman is your man.)
Senator Lieberman’s foreign policy and national security expertise is highly respected and renowned around the world,” Wallace said in the release about his new president. “We could have no better leader as the American people consider this flawed Iran agreement.
Wallace praised Samore, describing him as “one of the premier experts sceptical of Iran’s willingness to forgo a nuclear weapons capability… While concerned with many provisions of the Iran deal, Gary ultimately supports the agreement and is stepping down to avoid any conflict with UANI’s work in opposition to the agreement.”
Samore reciprocated, insisting that “[i]n these partisan times, UANI has been a bipartisan and thoughtful voice on these issues. If the nuclear agreement goes forward – as I believe it should – UANI will continue to play a critical role monitoring implementation and help to maintain non-nuclear sanctions until Iran changes its behavior in these other areas.”
To its credit, UANI permitted Samore, who will remain on the group’s Advisory Board, to have his say.