by M.J. Rosenberg
Sometimes I hear from readers who complain that I lay too much blame on AIPAC for our one-sided and failed Middle East policies.
What can I say? I worked at AIPAC for almost six years (1973-1975, 1982-1986) so I know how it operates. Additionally, because I left AIPAC on good terms, I maintained friendships with its staff (no more!) and they filled me in on how the lobby was increasing its power over Congress. Of course, I saw that myself during 15 years as a House and Senate staffer. AIPAC runs the Middle East policy show on Capitol Hill.
Rarely am I surprised by anything AIPAC (or Congress, tucked securely in its pocket) does. But sometimes, AIPAC’s actions are so egregious, and those of Congress so supine, in promoting policies that are clearly against U.S. interests that I have to admit some surprise.
Take what AIPAC is doing this week. It is getting the House of Representatives to pass legislation it wrote that would impose the heaviest sanctions on Iran yet, (Here is AIPAC’s one minute video urging support for its bill).
Here is how the New York Times described the AIPAC bill on Thursday.
The legislation, if enacted into law and fully enforced, could basically eradicate what is left of Iran’s diminished oil exports by coercing its remaining customers to find other suppliers. Proponents of the legislation say that with 376 sponsors, it is expected to pass the House easily. It would then move to the Senate for consideration in September.
There is nothing surprising about that. AIPAC has been drafting and the House and Senate passing AIPAC’s Iran sanctions bills for years. They don’t accomplish anything except punish the Iranian people. After all, if they did “work,” AIPAC wouldn’t keep having to write new sanctions bills. Iran would have surrendered to Israel’s demands on the nuclear issue years ago.
In a sense, this is all deja vu except for the timing.
Again the Times:
But critics say the timing of the House vote has raised sharp questions about the kind of message it would send to Iran’s president-elect, Hassan Rouhani, before he takes office on Sunday.
A new president of Iran, Hassan Rouhani, takes office in a few days. He was elected as a moderate, the un-Ahmedinejad. Since his election he has made clear that his goal is to resolve the US-Iran stalemate over Iranian nuclear development through negotiations.
Of course, at this point, who knows? Maybe he is a wolf in sheep’s clothing.
We will know soon but not until after he takes office on Sunday, which is why AIPAC’s preemptive strike is so appalling.
After all, there is not one reason for passing this punitive bill before the new president takes office, unless, of course, AIPAC’s goal is to insult Rouhani and the Iranian nation in order to push him toward becoming another Ahmedinejad.
Nothing pleased the lobby more than having an Iranian president who spouted obscene nonsense about the Holocaust and Israel, all the easier to convince the United States to go to war with him. But this guy is trouble. If he is a real moderate, AIPAC won’t get its war.
As to the question as to why Congress would go along with AIPAC on this, you know the answer. Members of Congress will do whatever it wants to collect campaign cash from donors associated with it. Even in a case like this, where the U.S. interest is so clear, dollars and cents point the other way.
The good news is that the administration has made clear it welcomes the new Iranian president and is eager to hear what he has to say. Of course, AIPAC’s legislation, once passed by House and Senate, could box him in.
This is why I write about AIPAC so much. There is no other lobby like it. Other countries are represented in Washington by registered foreign agents who are banned by law from any involvement in U.S. politics. AIPAC skirts that requirement by being an American lobby representing a foreign government. Neat trick! And it is the trick (funding politicians legally) that enables it to foist all these dangerous policies on the United States.
Last point: most of your favorite “progressive” Members of Congress are co-sponsors of the AIPAC bill, meaning they knowingly put U.S. interests behind their fundraising desires. Here is the list. Read it and weep, no, read it and get angry.
M.J. Rosenberg is Special Correspondent for The Washington Spectator. Previously he served as a Senior Foreign Policy Fellow with Media Matters Action Network, and prior to that worked on Capitol Hill for various Democratic members of the House and Senate for 15 years.
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