The Lobby and Iran

More general articles
dealing with the possibility of war between America and Iran
can be found in “Iranian-American war?”.


As Washington Studies Iraq Report,
Jerusalem Frets Over Tehran Talk

by Marc Perelman
Jewish Daily Forward, 2006-12-15

[Paragraph numbers and emphasis are added.]


the release of the long-awaited Baker-Hamilton report on Iraq policy
has produced
an outpouring of protest from Jewish groups
opposing its calls
for talks with Iran, Syria and the Palestinians,

insiders say that the real target of Israel’s anxiety
is neither Syria nor the Palestinians,
but Iran and its nuclear program.

Earlier this week,
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert publicly expressed
guarded willingness to engage Damascus.
While Olmert’s gesture was hedged with conditions,
a government adviser told the Forward this week that
Jerusalem was in fact open to holding discussions with Syria,
but was constrained by
the Bush administration’s flat opposition
to any dealings with the regime of Bashar al-Assad.

[It is not only the Bush-Cheney administration
that is avoiding negotiations with Syria (and Iran);
see this WashPost editorial.]

As for a new opening toward the Palestinians,
Olmert recently declared his willingness to move in that direction,
even softening his terms for a renewal of diplomacy.
Jerusalem is unhappy seeing any linkage between
America’s problems in Iraq and
Israel’s dealings with the Palestinians,
viewing such linkage as
a form of pressure on Israel to move faster than it might choose.
[Yeah, right.
It’s only been forty years since Israel seized the West Bank.
What’s the rush?]

At the same time, Israel seeks progress for its own reasons.

On the Iranian front, however, Jerusalem is deeply fearful, seeing
any U.S. appeal for Iranian help in Iraq as implying a quid pro quo
that can only be damaging to Israel’s essential interests.

The administration is currently reviewing its options
in Iraq and in the region
following the December 6 release of the report
by the bipartisan Iraq Study Group.
The report calls for direct engagement with Syria and Iran
in order to secure their help in stabilizing Iraq.
It also calls for a sustained effort
to jump-start the Israeli-Palestinian peace process,
as a key to improving the atmosphere in the region
and easing the way for moderate Arab regimes to cooperate with Washington.

Bush has indicated an unwillingness
to pursue the recommendations on engaging Iran and Syria
unless Tehran verifiably abandons its nuclear ambitions
and Damascus stops destabilizing Lebanon
and halts support for Hezbollah and Hamas.

In a December 12 interview with Agence-France Presse,
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice openly rejected
the study group’s appeal to deal directly with Damascus and Tehran
in order to end the crisis in Iraq.

Moreover, administration officials
who have briefed Jewish community officials in recent days
have indicated that
the president rejects
the report’s linkage of Iraq and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

James Baker, the Republican stalwart who co-chaired the study group,
said after the report’s release that
Syrian officials had indicated to the commission that
they would be willing to meet two key American and Israel demands:
to decrease their support for Hezbollah and
to pressure Hamas to recognize Israel’s right to exist.

“Talking to Syria
gives us an excellent opportunity to revitalize the Arab-Israeli peace process,”
Baker said.
“The Syrians are the transit point for arms shipments to Hezbollah,
and if you can flip the Syrians,
you will cure Israel’s Hezbollah problem….
The Syrians will tell you, as they told us, that
they do have the ability
to convince Hamas to acknowledge Israel’s right to exist….
If we accomplished that,
that would give Ehud Olmert a negotiating partner on the Palestinian track.”

Just hours after the report was released last week,
the American Israel Public Affairs Committee issued a press release
warning against unconditional talks with Iran and Syria.
“While engagement can be a useful diplomatic tool,
both Iran and Syria have used past talks with the United States and Europeans
as a time-buying exercise
to continue their destructive policies and stave off serious consequences,”
Aipac said.

Israeli officials dismissed the report’s assertion that
solving the crisis in Iraq
implied a renewed effort on the Israeli-Palestinian track.

But the real concern of Israeli policymakers,
several knowledgeable sources argued, is Iran.
Israel and its allies have been extremely active in recent weeks,
depicting Iran as a global threat.
The latest round of protests was sparked by
this week’s international Holocaust conference in Tehran,
a gathering of Holocaust deniers and neo-Nazis from around the world.

Behind the rhetoric,
Jerusalem worries that
Washington will ease its pressure on Tehran to suspend nuclear enrichment
in exchange for
Iranian help in stabilizing Iraq.

Israeli concerns are compounded by
the fact that
talk of military action against Tehran has receded in recent months,

even as negotiations over U.N. sanctions against Iran remain stalled,
leaving Iran in an increasingly strong bargaining position over the nuclear issue.
In his confirmation hearings last week,
incoming Defense Secretary Robert Gates stated that
a military option against Iran should be an “absolute last resort.”

“I think that the consequences of a conflict — a military conflict with Iran —
could be quite dramatic,”
Gates told the senators.
“And therefore, I would counsel against military action,
except as a last resort
and if we felt that our vital interests were threatened.”
Gates pointed to Iran’s ability to
cut oil supplies,
launch terror attacks worldwide and
fuel more chaos in Iraq and in Lebanon.

Gates also referred to Israel as a nuclear power,
the first American official to do so publicly,
fueling concerns in some pro-Israel circles
that he was laying groundwork for a new form of pressure on Israel,
perhaps involving a trade of Israel’s nukes for Iran’s.

In contrast to its fears on the Iran front,
Jerusalem has made several noteworthy gestures
towards the Palestinians and the Syrians in recent days.
The moves toward the Palestinians are at least partly
in anticipation of increased U.S. pressure to show progress.
On the Syrian front, by contrast,
the moves come, despite U.S. wishes,
in hopes of separating Damascus from Tehran.

Hamas’s refusal to recognize Israel
has been one of the main stumbling blocks
preventing the formation of a Palestinian national unity government
over the past months.
The Fatah party of Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas
takes the position that
it will not join a government
that cannot negotiate peace with Israel.
Israel’s position has been that
it will not talk to a Palestinian unity government
in which Hamas plays a major role
unless Hamas itself recognizes Israel.
In recent days, however, Israel has shifted its stance,
with spokesmen now saying
it could deal with a Palestinian unity government that recognizes Israel,
implying that the individual components of that government
can have different policies.

On Syria, Olmert took a step toward lowering tensions this week,
saying in a German television interview that
he did not see a war looming in the coming months.
His statement appeared to
bolster the view of Israel’s military intelligence branch
over that of the Northern Command,
which has warned of a military buildup
that could lead to open warfare by next summer.

Assad has offered on several occasions in recent years
to open a dialogue with Israel over the Golan Heights,
proclaiming that Syria — in sharp contrast to Iran —
is willing to make peace with Israel.

Up to now Assad has been rebuffed by Jerusalem,
with the support of Washington,
out of the belief that the Syrian regime was weak and isolated
following its forced withdrawal from Lebanon last year.
the continuing chaos in Iraq,
the inconclusive war in Lebanon and
the stalemate with Hamas
have changed the equation in recent months and
prompted a growing chorus of Israeli and American officials and pundits
to advocate a more positive response to Damascus’s overtures.

Olmert, however, reiterated to reporters in Germany this week that
Syria first had to cease its support for Hamas and Hezbollah
before any serious talks could start.

An adviser to Israel’s intelligence services,
speaking to the Forward this week,
said that the hedging was partly a result of
Washington’s opposition to such discussions until now.

With reporting by Nathan Guttman in Washington.

[This article is cited in endnote 10.111 of ILUSFP.]


Aipac Will Press for Hard Line on Iran Regime
New York Sun, 2007-03-07

[Paragraph numbers and emphasis are added.
Some grammatical errors in the original text
have been left unaltered and un-noted.
By the way, the banner ad on the print page (as of 2007-11-07) is for www.DosiDate.com,
with the label:
Dosidate Orthodox Singles.”
An ad targeted to such a narrow demographic
gives some indication of the New York Sun’s target audience
(as well as its already-known financial backers and staff).]

The Democratic-controlled Congress is moving to outflank
both the Bush administration and the United Nations
the toughest set of sanctions against Iran
that have ever been proposed.

The introduction of the new legislation
comes as more than 5,500 members of America’s largest pro-Israel lobby
are set to arrive in Washington for their annual policy conference.
They are expected
to press Congress to endorse new legislation
to sanction foreign companies that do business with Iran and
to re-impose the import restrictions
on items such as rugs, pistachios, and caviar,
which President Clinton lifted in 2000
to foster dialogue with an Iranian regime that was seen as reformist.

The goal of the sanctions is to deny Tehran funding
that could be used to support terrorism and attacks on American troops in Iraq
or to build nuclear weapons or missiles.
With the United Nations hesitant to take significant action against Iran
and even American allies in Europe hesitant
to move beyond symbolic condemnations,
the congressional actions are an attempt
to signal to both Iran and its international business partners
that Washington is running out of patience with Iranian misbehavior.

The new sanctions legislation introduced yesterday by Rep. Tom Lantos,
the chairman of the House Foreign Relations Committee,
differs from earlier sanctions bills in that
it would not grant President Bush the authority
to waive sanctions against oil companies
that sign new agreements with the Islamic Republic.

The activists who will be pressing the new bill are coming to Washington
for the annual convention of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee,
where the House speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat of California,
is scheduled to give her first major speech on Middle East policy
as the House leader.
Both the Republican and Democratic leaders of the House and Senate
will make speeches at the event,
which is also expected to draw presidential candidates
such as Senators Clinton, Obama, Biden, and Brownback.
Senator McCain is said to be likely to attend as well.

Yesterday, Aipac spokesman Josh Block said
the lobbying push this year has three priorities.
To start, the group will try support
“continued U.S. aid to Israel
that helps strengthen American interest in the region
by ensuring that our ally Israel remain strong and secure
in it’s tough neighborhood.”
That priority is important because
the ten-year agreement
signed between President Clinton and Prime Minister Netanyahu
that phased out the economic assistance element
of the $2.4 billion in annual aid Israel
receives as a condition of its peace accord with Egypt
is set to expire.
Today Israeli and American diplomats are negotiating new terms
of how the American assistance will be spent.

Mr. Block also said organization’s activists
will be urging lawmakers to withhold aid from
“going to support or legitimize
a Palestinian Authority dominated by a terrorist group, Hamas,
which refuses to
recognize Israel,
renounce violence or
abide by previous agreements with the Jewish State.”

That issue is particularly tricky for the Bush administration today
because the Palestinian Arab president, Mahmoud Abbas,
is currently in negotiations with Hamas,
a State Department designated foreign terrorist organization.

The new focus for the organization this year will be Mr. Lantos’ new legislation.
Yesterday at a hearing before his committee,
Mr. Lantos laid down the gauntlet for international energy companies.

“Until now,
abusing its waiver authority and other flexibility in the law,
the Executive Branch has never sanctioned any foreign oil company
which invested in Iran.
Those halcyon days for the oil industry are over,” he said.

“If Dutch Shell moves forward with its proposed $10 billion deal with Iran,
it will be sanctioned.
If Malaysia moves forward with a similar deal,
it too will be sanctioned.
The same treatment will be accorded to China and India
should they finalize deals with Iran,”
said Mr. Lantos, a Democrat from California.

[The prospect of economic war with the entire world.
Israel uber alles!]

Mr. Lantos’s Republican counterpart on the House Foreign Relations Committee,
Ileana Ros-Lehtinen,
yesterday introduced her own Iran legislation
mandating divestment by federal government pension funds
from companies that have invested more than $20 million in Iran’s energy sector.
The measure also
expresses the Sense of Congress
that private funds should also divest from such entities,
prohibits future investments by either government or private pension funds,
requires publication in the Federal Register
of a list of companies that have invested $20 million or more
in Iran’s energy sector,
in violation of the Iran Sanctions Act.
Mr. Lantos said he expected that the law finally passed
would incorporate elements of Ms. Ros-Lehtinen’s legislation.

For Aipac to endorse the legislation this year
could place the bipartisan lobby on a collision course
with a Bush administration that has used earlier bills supported by Aipac
to sanction Iranian banks and front companies.

Yesterday, the undersecretary of State for political affairs, Nicholas Burns,
said he supported the new sanctions in general,
but that administration would oppose the loss of waiver authority
because it would have the effect of forcing America to sanction its allies.

The new bill could also force America’s hand this weekend,
when a top American diplomat, Ambassador [to the UN] Zalmay Khalilzad,
participates in a meeting of ambassadors and diplomats in Baghdad
that will include both Iran and Syria.
Iran has come under pressure recently,
with Interpol recommending arrest warrants for former Iranian officials
in connection with the bombing of a Jewish cultural center in Argentina.
The Bush administration has accused Iran of supporting bombings in Iraq,
and the United Nations has said
Iran is flouting international inspections of its nuclear program.
The Telegraph reported today that an Iranian spymaster,
General Ali Reza Azkari,
went missing in Turkey last month
and is suspected of possibly having defected to the West.

Mr. Block stressed that the annual policy conference this year was evidence of
the “bipartisan nature of American support for Israel
throughout the past and into the future
regardless of which party is in control of the House or Senate,
and the history, breadth and diversity of America’s centuries of support
for the Jewish homeland in Israel.”

Nonetheless, some elements in the Democratic Party
have worried Jewish leaders and the pro-Israel community.
The American general who led NATO,
a 2004 Democratic presidential candidate, Wesley Clark,
in January told Web logger Arianna Huffington
that he was confident America would bomb Iran
because it was pushed by “New York money people,”
and written about in the Israeli press.
Also, the party’s 2004 vice presidential pick, John Edwards,
has chosen a former congressman, David Bonior,
as the manager of his 2008 presidential campaign.
Mr. Bonior was one of the least friendly votes for Israel in the House
when he was in Congress.

[This article is cited in endnote 10.79 of ILUSFP.]

Activists Set To Push New Sanctions Against Iran
by Nathan Guttman
Jewish Daily Forward, 2007-03-09

[Paragraph numbers and emphasis are added.]

On the eve of its major policy conference,
the pro-Israel lobby is backing new congressional legislation that would
toughen sanctions against Iran and
target foreign entities doing business with the Islamic Republic.

Increasing economic pressure on Iran
will be one of the main lobbying objectives
for the 5,500 activists attending
the annual American Israel Public Affairs Committee policy conference
in Washington.
In their meetings with lawmakers on Capitol Hill,
Aipac members will push the new legislation,
which is expected to be formally rolled out later this week and
is being introduced by Democratic Rep. Tom Lantos of California
chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.
The bill seeks to close loopholes in previous measures
that failed to deal with third countries
or foreign companies conducting business with Iran.

A separate piece of legislation,
introduced Tuesday by Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida,
the ranking Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee,
calls for mandatory divestment from Iran.
The bill
prohibits American pension plans and mutual funds from investing in Iran
requires full disclosure of such investments currently under way.

“By reducing our investments in Iran,
we hamper the deadly ambitions of a regime
heavily dependent on income earned from oil and natural gas,”
Ros-Lehtinen said.
The measures proposed by Lantos and Ros-Lehtinen
represent a renewed interest in applying economic pressure on Iran,
based on the assumption that Tehran is vulnerable to international sanctions.
This view is now shared by the bulk of Iran analysts in the government,
and at think tanks in Washington,
who believe that the regime in Tehran
is worried that economic difficulties threaten its rule.

“All the evidence we have proves that economic pressure on Iran does work,”
said a Democratic congressional aide who is involved in Iran issues.

The legislation proposed by Lantos argues that
stepping up the economic pressure on Iran
should be seen as a means of proving that
military action is not necessarily needed to thwart Tehran’s nuclear ambitions.
It includes a clause stating clearly that
the bill does not give the administration
any authorization to use military force against Iran.

In congressional testimony this week,
Under Secretary of State Nicholas Burns, the administration’s point man on Iran,
said that
the international sanctions imposed last year
by the United Nations Security Council
were working better than he had expected.
“When they were passed in December,” Burns said,
“I did not anticipate that they would have the impact they have had,
but they have had an impact.”

One of the most significant measures in the new bill proposed by Lantos
is the curtailment of the president’s ability to waive the sanctions.
It also provides increased congressional oversight
regarding the way the administration implements the legislation.
These more stringent steps reflect the discontent in Congress
with the administration’s strategy for dealing with
the existing anti-Iranian sanctions
that were put in place more than a decade ago.
Sources close to the issue point out, for example,
that only one foreign company
was ever investigated for investing in Iran’s energy sector —
and even then it was not punished,
because President Clinton chose to use his waiver authority
to block the sanctions.

“Until now, abusing its waiver authority and other flexibility in the law,
the Executive Branch has never sanctioned
any foreign oil company that invested in Iran.
Those halcyon days for the oil industry are over,”
Lantos said Tuesday during a hearing on the issue.
“The corporate barons running giant oil companies —
who have cravenly turned a blind eye to Iran’s development of nuclear weapons —
have come to assume that the Iran Sanctions Act will never be implemented.
This charade will now come to a long-overdue end.”

The administration, while supportive of sanctions against Iran,
is still a step behind Congress on this issue.
Speaking at the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Tuesday,
Burns cautioned against steps that might “sanction allies” of the United States
and deter countries that have joined forces with America to pressure Iran.

The legislation also goes after
American companies that trade with Iran through their foreign subsidiaries
and calls for banning them
from receiving tax benefits for gas and oil exploration.
One company that had been widely criticized
for conducting business with Iran through a foreign subsidiary was Halliburton,
formerly headed by Vice President Dick Cheney.

Lantos’s bill would also
block any kind of imports from Iran (including small items, such as caviar),
limit American exports to Iran and
prevent nuclear cooperation with countries that assist Iran’s nuclear program.
There is also a call to
withhold funds from the World Bank equal to the amounts it provides Iran
and to block free-trade agreements with countries that support Iran.

The Iranian issue is expected to be at the top of the agenda
when thousands of Aipac activists take to Capitol Hill on Tuesday,
the last day of their annual policy conference.
They are expected to call on members of Congress
to support the new sanctions bill and other measures
meant to apply pressure on Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s regime.

Another pro-Israel group, The Israel Project,
launched an ad campaign this week,
calling for increased economic pressure on Iran.
“Did you know that several companies that do business with Iran
are traded on the New York Stock Exchange?”
asks the advertisement,
which was mailed to 60,000 reporters, policy-makers and pro-Israel activists.

Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, who heads the project, said that
it is time to use the “power of the purse” to counter Iran.
“As individuals,
we can take a look at our retirement plan
and see if it is helping Iran’s nuclear program,”
Laszlo Mizrahi said.

Other items on Aipac’s lobbying agenda next week will include
ensuring continued American aid to Israel
voicing opposition to the new Palestinian national unity deal,
which does not require Hamas to recognize Israel.

A congressional letter expected next week
will express the dismay in Congress over the new Palestinian government
and reiterate

the opposition on Capitol Hill
to any American aid to the Palestinians
before the Hamas-Fatah government
• recognizes Israel,
• agrees to honor past agreements, and
• disavows violence.

[As the Israeli Joel Beinin has said,
“Such demands appear to be sensible requirements for a diplomatic process.
But in fact they are one-sided and hypocritical.”
See 2007-02-23-Beinin for an explanation of why.]

Some members of Congress have already taken action on this issue.

In a letter sent to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Monday,
leaders of the House Foreign Affairs Committee
asked the administration
to reconsider an $86 million aid package
for Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s forces,
because of the national unity agreement he signed with Hamas.
“The fact that Fatah will now join a government led by Hamas terrorists,
and will do so with Abbas’s blessing,
raises serious questions
about the commitments and loyalties of the Palestinian security forces
we had undertaken to assist,”
the letter reads.
Lantos and Ros-Lehtinen, as well as
Democratic Rep. Gary Ackerman of New York and
Republican Rep. Mike Pence of Indiana,
the respective chair and ranking minority member
of the House subcommittee on the Middle East,
signed it.

[This article is cited in endnote 10.79 of ILUSFP.]

Democrats Retreat on War Funds
Engel Emerges as Key Hawk
New York Sun, 2007-03-14

[Paragraph numbers and emphasis are added.]

Two Democratic congressmen from New York City
quietly intervened with the speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi,
to preserve President Bush’s authority
to use military force in the gathering showdown with Iran.

The Democratic leadership had introduced language
in a $100 billion bill to fund military operations in Iraq.
The language
would have required Mr. Bush to seek congressional approval
before expanding military operations to Iran.

But in the past week, Ms. Pelosi removed the clause after
a group of conservative and pro-Israel Democrats
threatened to vote against the appropriations package
if it included the provision tying the president’s hands.

One of those members,
Rep. Eliot Engel [who is Jewish], a Democrat from New York,
said yesterday he counted between 20 and 27 members
who would have voted against the funding measure
if it included the Iran language.
Rep. Gary Ackerman [who is Jewish], another Democrat of New York,
said he thinks the dissenters had even more votes.

The change in emphasis for the House leader
was not limited to the funding bill.
Yesterday, at a conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee,
Ms. Pelosi endorsed toughening American sanctions on Iran
by stripping the executive branch of the power to waive the sanctions.

Her position would effectively establish a trigger
to deny companies such as Royal Dutch Shell
access to the American financial markets
if they continued to work with Iran.

The showdown among the Democrats, first reported by the Associated Press,
discloses the fragility of the party’s 233- to 201-seat advantage over Republicans in the House of Representatives.
Five House sources yesterday said
the language barring the president from expanding military actions into Iran
was initially added
as an inducement for the more left-wing Democrats to support the funding bill
that some argued had too many exemptions
for allowing American soldiers to stay in Iraq.

But the effort to bring in the left flank backfired.
Ms. Pelosi faced new opposition by
the conservative “blue dog” Democrats and
the informal caucus of Jewish members
who have traditionally held more hawkish positions on the security of Israel,
which Iran’s president has vowed to wipe off the map.

“I think frankly the Iranian regime is a dangerous regime,” said Mr. Engel,
who threatened to vote no on the bill
if it included provision tying the president’s hands on Iran.
“The only way they will respond in a moderate way will be through pressure.
While I do not support any military action against Iran,
I do believe everything needs to be on the table
in order for them to calculate that they have to modify their behavior.”

Mr. Ackerman yesterday said
after Mr. Engel and Rep. Shelley Berkley [also Jewish], a Nevada Democrat,
bluntly said they would not vote for the supplemental funding bill
if it included the language barring use of force against Iran,
the caucus of pro-Israel Democrats and blue dog Democrats
began an impromptu discussion with Ms. Pelosi
in between votes in the well of the House floor.

Mr. Ackerman said he made a political and policy argument
in favor of withdrawing the Iran language.
“Most people think it would be a bad idea to attack Iran.
Those of us who have thought it out,
also think it is a bad idea to take it off the table,”
he said.

He said he stressed that
“everybody knows that you can’t start a war unless Congress acquiesces.
But with this, you are going to lose votes,
a lot of the Jewish members
[I guess “liberal” Jews cease to be liberal when Israel is involved],
a lot of the conservative members and
many of the Republicans who would have voted with us on this
but want to make sure the president has all of his options on Iran.”

Mr. Ackerman later said,
“To her great credit,
Nancy Pelosi made a command decision to take it out
and try to convince everyone else on the merits of the bill.
I think we have a very good bill.
Is it the bill I would have written personally?
But you have to get 218 people out of 236 Democrats,
that’s a huge percentage to pass it.
That’s the most important thing.”

In some ways, however, the Democrats remain doves on Iran.
Yesterday the Democratic Leadership Council,
which supported the Iraq war resolution in 2002
issued a paper on Iran
calling on America
to negotiate multilaterally with Iran to achieve a “grand bargain”
and eventually normalize relations.

[Sounds like a great idea to me.
And I’m in general no DLCer.]

The minor victory for the most hawkish Democrats last week
has earned some enmity from some liberal bloggers
who have accused the Democrats who balked at the Iran language
of being pawns of Aipac.
One such blogger, M.J. Rosenberg,
accused the Democrats of “yielding to pressure from Aipac,”
calling the decision to remove the Iran language “sickening.”
“Could even 2% of Democrats in the country favor
giving Bush carte blanche to attack Iran?”

asked Mr. Rosenberg,
who is director of policy analysis of the Israel Policy Forum, an advocacy group.

When asked Aipac’s role, Mr. Engle said,
“When I objected no one from Aipac had spoken to me.”
Mr. Ackerman yesterday said,
“The leadership of Aipac thought
the U.S. position would be better served without the Iran language.
I don’t know they were lobbying anyone on this though.”

While the language tying the president’s hands on Iran is gone for now,
it is possible that it could crop up again in the Senate,
where Senator Webb, a newly elected Democrat from Virginia
who was chosen by his party
to give the Democratic response to Mr. Bush’s State of the Union address,
has introduced similar language as a standalone bill.
The Daily Press of Hampton Roads, Va. reported this month that
“Webb said he has won backing for his measure
from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.,
and would likely seek to attach his legislation
as an amendment to a spending bill
now moving through Congress to fund the Iraq war.”

The main headline on the Web site of Moveon.org, an influential left-wing site,
tells visitors, “Support Senator Webb’s bill to rein in Bush on Iran.”
The site says,
“Senator Jim Webb introduced a bill that
requires the president
to get approval from Congress before taking military action in Iran.

Call your senators and ask them to support Sen. Webb’s bill.”
The bill has no cosponsors other than Mr. Webb.
[Isn’t that amazing?
Not a single other senator would agree with such a reasonable bill.
(I believe Hillary Clinton, after one of her seemingly prowar votes on Iran,
has become the second cosponsor (but still no other cosponsors).)
Why is that?
The only reason that I can see
is the desire to please (perhaps more accurately, genuflect to) Israel.]

[This article is cited in endnote 10.96 of ILUSFP.]

Engel's Finest Hour
New York Sun Editorial, 2007-03-14

[Paragraph numbers and emphasis are added.]

A cheer for the congressman from the Bronx, Eliot Engel,
whose leadership removed from legislation under consideration by the House
a provision that would have tied President Bush’s hands
in dealing with Iran.
The provision Mr. Engel helped to kill would have required Mr. Bush
to get explicit permission from Congress
before taking military action against Iran.
Mr. Engel had help from a congressman from Queens, Gary Ackerman,
who said at a recent hearing,
“The world’s response to Iran has been too slow and too soft.”

Those tempted to underestimate the guts it takes
to act like this in today’s Democratic Party
may consider that Mr. Engel’s position and Mr. Ackerman’s position
puts them at odds with that of Senator Clinton,
who is among the most hawkish Democrats in the war on Islamic terrorism
and whom the two congressmen have endorsed for the presidency.
Mrs. Clinton said in a speech on the Senate floor on February 14,
“If the administration believes that
any, any use of force against Iran is necessary,
the president must come to Congress to seek that authority.”
The supposedly centrist Democratic Leadership Council,
yesterday issued a call for
“a serious push to forge a ‘grand bargain’ with Iran,” through diplomacy,
asserting that
American financial aid to Iranian opposition groups
“would only discredit them.”

Even if one doesn’t think the time is right
for immediate military action against Iran,
a congressional action that explicitly prohibits it
has the effect of stripping American diplomacy
of the backing of the credible threat of the use of force.
Thanks to Mr. Ackerman and Mr. Engel,
Mr. Bush will still have that threat — and full authority,
which may well be necessary in defending New Yorkers and all Americans
against the
terror-sponsoring, Holocaust-denying, nuclear-bomb-building regime
in Tehran.

[This editorial is cited in endnote 10.96 of ILUSFP.]

Prosor: War with Iran may be unavoidable
Jerusalem Post, 2007-12-09

It must be clear that if Iran does not cooperate with the West on the nuclear issue, military confrontation will be unavoidable, incoming Israeli ambassador to Britain, Ron Prosor, was quoted as saying Sunday.

Prosor, who served as Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s senior adviser on Iran, told the Sunday Telegraph that Teheran could enrich enough uranium to make an atomic bomb by 2009.

“At the current rate of progress Iran will reach the technical threshold for producing fissile material by 2009,” he told the British newspaper. “This is a global threat and it requires a global response. It should be made clear that if Iran does not co-operate then military confrontation is inevitable. It is either co-operation or confrontation.”

Prosor went on to say that the Iranians would soon be able to fully control all the elements of enrichment and from that point on, it would only be a matter of time before they had a nuclear weapon.


The right's game-playing with
"dual loyalty" and "anti-Semitism" accusations

by Glenn Greenwald
Salon.com, 2008-07-02

As our political establishment takes new and disturbing steps
towards a more confrontational approach with Iran,
the effort to stomp out any discussion of the role Israel plays in that policy
has once again intensified.

[This is triple-posted:
Jews and War
America, American Jews, and Israel
The Lobby and Iran.]

The Father of Lies
by Philip Giraldi
Antiwar.com, 2008-07-30

America's Israeli-Occupied Media
by Philip Giraldi
Antiwar.com, 2008-08-12

[Paragraph numbers and emphasis are added.]

There should be little doubt that

the Israeli government is making every effort
to jump-start a war against Iran sooner rather than later.

Many Israelis not surprisingly believe it is in their interest
to convince the United States to attack Iran
so that Israel will not have to do it,
and they are hell-bent on bringing that about.

their efforts are being aided and abetted by
a U.S. mainstream media that is
unwilling to ask any hard questions or
challenge the assumptions of the Israeli government.

Israeli intellectuals such as Benny Morris
have been provided a platform to argue implausibly that
a little war is necessary right now to prevent a larger nuclear conflict.
The repeated visits to Washington
by Israeli Minister of Defense Ehud Barak and Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi
to pressure Washington to commit to a military option
are generally unreported in the U.S. media,
and no one is asking
why the United States should be involved in
what is clearly a “wag the dog” scenario.

For once, however,
some officials in Washington appear to have developed a backbone
and are pushing back.
A flurry of visits to Israel by
Defense Secretary Robert Gates,
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Michael Mullen,
and intelligence chiefs Mike McConnell and Michael Hayden
have made clear that
there is considerable opposition at the Pentagon and in intelligence circles
to starting a third war at this time.

Israel says that Iran is about to obtain a nuclear weapon
while the Pentagon and American intelligence services
are providing a more cautious assessment,
putting forward the U.S. view that
Iran is still far removed from having nuclear capability.
Mullen went so far as to tell the Israelis flatly that
Washington does not want another war.
He even brought up the subject of the USS Liberty,
a not-so subtle hint that Washington knows that
Israel might try to engineer a Gulf of Tonkin-type surprise
to force American involvement.
Mullen may have been implying that
any incident in the Persian Gulf that might lead to armed conflict
will be scrutinized carefully
to determine if it is a false flag operation initiated by Tel Aviv.

On the home front there is also some additional good news
for those who prefer diplomacy to warfare:
Congress is in recess and won’t be able to do anything truly stupid,
at least not until next month.
House Resolution 362 has 261 co-sponsors,
but it is still in committee and the word is that
it will be rewritten because of concerns about some of its language.
Though not binding,

it would have recommended a blockade of Iranian ports
to stop the import of petroleum products,
which many have rightly seen as an act of war.

[Well, Israel for one
would surely never take a mere act like a blockade as a casus belli ;-)]

Senate Resolution 580, which has 49 senators as co-sponsors,
is also reportedly being redrafted.
The antiwar movement has claimed some credit
for stopping the two resolutions in their original versions
because of a mobilization that produced thousands of calls to congressmen,
but AIPAC has been lobbying heavily for the approval of both resolutions.
I expect that the Israel lobby will prevail. [!!]
Both resolutions should pass with overwhelming majorities
when Congress reconvenes after Labor Day.

The principal problem in attempting to derail the rush to war
has been the mainstream media,
which provides a bully pulpit for those who want war.
The media also accepts
the framework of the Iran “problem” as defined by Washington and Tel Aviv,
refusing to enter into any kind of serious, adult discussion
of how the outstanding issues between the U.S. and Iran might be resolved.
A good example of how it all works was provided on Aug. 3,
when Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni
was interviewed on CNN’s Late Edition by Wolf Blitzer,
who himself once worked for AIPAC.
[CNN transcript, Israel MFA transcript]

Livni has an interesting resume.
Her father was one of the Irgun terrorists
who blew up the King David hotel in 1946
and later massacred Arab villagers in Deir Yassin.
As a teenager,
Livni participated in demonstrations
on behalf of the nationalist extremist group Greater Israel,
which advocated expelling all Arabs and
extending Israeli domination over all of historic Palestine
to include the West Bank, parts of Jordan,
up to the Litani River in Lebanon to the north,
and down to include Sinai and the Suez Canal in the south and west.
She is reported to have mellowed somewhat since that time.
She was close to Ariel Sharon, became justice minister,
switched over to Kadima with Sharon, and was elected to the Knesset.
She was rewarded with the Foreign Ministry by Sharon
and now serves Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.
She is a former intelligence officer,
a lawyer by training, bright and articulate,
and generally regarded as a “realist”
vis-à-vis the Palestinians and the Muslim world,
meaning that she supported the Sharon policy of “disengagement”
and seeks a negotiated solution and normalization
rather than continuing armed conflict.
She appears to be the leading candidate to replace Ehud Olmert
when he steps down later this year
due to his acceptance of gifts from an American businessman.

[Barak and Netanyahu may disagree.]

Livni has been reported as having said privately in October 2007
that Iran poses no existential threat to Israel
and was highly critical of attempts to hype the danger,
but her private views have not in any way
influenced her public pronouncements.
In her interview with CNN
she made a number of statements that are inaccurate or at best speculative,
but predictably, she was not challenged in any way by Blitzer.
Most viewers probably came away from the interview convinced that Iran
is seeking nuclear weapons,
is unwilling to negotiate over its nuclear enrichment program, and
is a danger to the entire world.

Following a lead-in by Blitzer affirming that Iran is
“showing absolutely no indication they’re going to stop enriching uranium,”
Livni – representing a country that has
ignored more UN resolutions than any other,
engaged in ethnic cleansing, and
attacked all of its neighbors without warning – asserted that
“It is clear that Iran doesn’t pay attention to talks …
Iran is a threat, not only to Israel, but this is a global threat.”

Blitzer then obligingly provided another softball,
referring to Ehud Barak’s assessment that
there is only a window of 15 to 36 months
before Iran crosses the “line of no return.”
While it is not clear what the expression “line of no return” means,
Livni jumped on it, saying that
“any kind of hesitation … is being perceived by the Iranians as weakness. …
Iran is a threat to its neighbors, as well. …
We shouldn’t wait for what we call ‘point of no return.’ ”
Blitzer then asked,
“You don’t even give them 15 months necessarily.
You think it’s a more urgent matter?”
“Yes,” Livni answered.

Blitzer then suggested that
the U.S. might not ready for a “third front” in the Middle East
at the present time,
to which Livni replied,
“[T]he world cannot afford a nuclear Iran
and weapons of mass destruction everywhere in this region,
in the hands not only of states, but also of terrorist organizations.”
Livni clearly believes that
it is all right for Israel to have a secret nuclear arsenal
but unacceptable for any of Israel’s neighbors,
because they cannot be trusted to behave responsibly.
The allegation that Tehran would give nuclear weapons to terrorists
surfaces frequently from Israeli and neocon sources.
It is speculative and in all likelihood a complete fantasy,
given the apocalyptic consequences of such an action for Iran,
but Blitzer failed to contest the point.
The terrorist argument is an essential line in the script
for those who want the U.S. to engage in a war with Iran.

Tzipi Livni should not be blamed for reciting her lines
in spite of her personal misgivings,
because she is, after all,
the government official responsible for explaining Tel Aviv’s foreign policy.
It is the American media that continues to play the patsy.
If interviewers like Wolf Blitzer
are the best that the U.S. mainstream media can come up with,
then we are in serious trouble.
The interview format itself is a travesty,
particularly as it suggests that some rational process is being applied
to either critique or validate what the interviewee is saying.
As the Livni interview demonstrates,
if the subject is the Middle East and the interviewer is Wolf Blitzer,
that is not likely to be the case.

[This is double-posted in
The Lobby and Iran and
The media and Iran.]


The Lobby versus Iran (revised edition)
By Stephen M. Walt
walt.foreignpolicy.com, 2010-02-02

Israel’s Lobby Imposes Crippling Sanctions on America — Again
by Grant Smith
Antiwar.com, 2010-03-12

Taboo Thwarts Candor on Israel/Iran
by Ray McGovern
Antiwar.com, 2010-03-12


With these observations on the table,
it was as if the doors to the hearing room were clanked shut and bolted,
lest the Israeli elephant be allowed to intrude.
And this, despite a palpable yearning in the audience
for the panelists to address uncomfortable questions like:

  • If there are no intrinsic factors dictating
    implacable hostility between Iran and the U.S.,
    how does one account for its persistence?
    What promotes, what feeds it?

    [C]ould the mutual hostility today have anything to do with Israel
    and its ability to enlist the U.S. behind Israeli strategic objectives?

  • Do the Iranian leaders see as contrived the oft-expressed concern
    that Iran might eventually obtain a nuclear weapon,
    when American officials do nothing about Israel’s actual nuclear weapons,
    or for that matter, those of Pakistan and India?

  • Is the real objective of Israel and, by extension, the U.S.
    the same as it was with respect to Iraq seven years ago —
    that is, “regime change”?
    (How I dislike using the euphemism in vogue
    for what we used to call overthrowing governments!)

  • ...

There are, of course,
limits to what can be covered in an hour and a quarter.
there did seem to be distinct reluctance to include Israel
in any discussion of the political obstacles
preventing sensible accommodation between Tehran and Washington.

No doubt the main obstacle can be traced to
the timeworn “passionate attachment”
of U.S. leaders to Israel’s perceived interests,
and the tendency to view them
as identical to those of the United States.
This politically and emotionally sensitive issue
needs to be addressed openly and without fear —
in the interest of Israeli, as well as Iranian and American citizens.

If Not Now, When?

Granted, volunteering to sponsor such a discussion
would be seen as the kiss of death for the vast majority of lawmakers.
But can it be that there is no group, no think tank
with courage enough to arrange such a forum?
For it truly needs to be done, and quickly, somewhere —
whether permitted in a Senate office building, or not.

Without free discussion and greater understanding,
there is virtually no prospect of lessened tensions.
Rather, the volatile situation seems likely to get still worse,
and could even include
an Israeli provocation and/or a preventive strike on Iran.

Here Admiral Mullen is right;
such actions would constitute a “big, big, big problem for all of us.”

The Coming Iran War
by M. J. Rosenberg
Huffington Post, 2010-05-28

It’s happening again.
The same forces -- with a few new additions and minus a few smart defectors --
who pushed the United States into a needless and deadly war with Iraq
are now organizing for the next war.
This time the target is Iran, which, just like Iraq,
is said to be on the verge of creating weapons of mass destruction.
Also, just like Iraq,
its president is a supposed madman determined to destroy Israel.

The other day, an Op-Ed appeared in the Jewish newspaper, Forward,
by Rabbi Eric Yoffie,
head of the Reform Jewish movement in America and a progressive,
that read like something out of 2002.

Yoffie’s piece is a cris de couer,
urging all Jews to support a hard line on Iran.
“Now is the time,” he writes,
“to pressure our government to move more emphatically
to counter the Iranian threat.”

What is [Rabbi Eric] Yoffie thinking when
he rules out diplomacy
but rules in a third Middle East war?
Is the preemptive slaughter of innocents
really a legitimate option for civilized people in 2010?

Well, it isn’t for me
or for the Reform Jews who look to Yoffie for leadership.
(Jews are mostly doves
and Reform Jews, to their credit, are the most dovish of all.)

It is war, not diplomacy, that belongs off the table.
I’m sure Rabbi Yoffie knows that.
That is what he should have written.


No to AIPAC, No to Israel, and No to War
by Sheldon Richman
Future of Freedom Foundation, 2012-03-05

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