The leaders of the largest pro-Israel lobby in D.C. were willing to give the Obama administration a shot at the beginning of the six-month interim agreement with Iran, but now it appears as if AIPAC’s patience is wearing thin.
The administration announced Friday night that it would extend the nuclear negotiations for four months, stressing that they were making progress on a deal and that Tehran was cooperating.
In November, AIPAC unveiled a list of concerns about the interim agreement, and invited Secretary of State John Kerry and Treasury Secretary Jack Lew to the March convention to discuss the talks. While AIPAC leaders at the conference welcomed the administration members and said they were open to hearing what they had to say, many of the conference attendees were unmoved by the reasoning of cabinet members.
The largest standing ovation of the conference went to Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) when he told the crowd that he had stood against members of his own party on Iran — including calling for new sanctions.
Today, AIPAC said in a statement that “despite our support for talks, we note that Tehran has yet to indicate a willingness to dismantle any element of its nuclear infrastructure.”
“We are concerned that rather than coming into compliance with U.N. Security Council resolutions, Iran will try to use the recently announced extension of talks to break the international coalition and advance its nuclear weapons program,” said the group. “We are deeply disappointed that the P5+1 has offered even more economic relief to Iran. Economic pressure brought Tehran to the negotiating table, and increased pressure is critical to any reasonable prospect for reaching a good agreement. Moreover, we are distressed that the P5+1 is providing Iran access to increased economic benefits at the very moment when Hamas is using arms supplied by Tehran to attack Israeli civilians.”
AIPAC said it was “concerned from the outset that Iran would drag out talks to improve its position, and Tehran has actually enjoyed some economic improvement as a result of sanctions relief in the Joint Plan of Action.”
“In addition, during the last six months, Iran has continued both enriching uranium and conducting research and development on advanced centrifuges,” continued the statement. “The Administration and Congress must make clear to Tehran that America’s patience with diplomacy is not infinite. And the Administration should begin immediate substantive consultations with Congress concerning what an acceptable final nuclear agreement must include.”
“The United States should make clear that Iran can expect no further extension of the talks. We must find new means to step up pressure on Tehran. And Iran must verifiably dismantle its nuclear weapons program or face harsh consequences for its ongoing violations of treaty commitments and international law.”