The lobbying war is going to get intense in Washington, D.C., over the next couple of months.
The National Iranian American Council quickly fired a salvo in the form of a full-page ad in The New York Times today, warning that Congress could “sabotage this historic chance for peace.”
But the pro-Tehran group faces one of the most powerful lobbies in town, which today made up its mind on the Iran deal.
On Tuesday, the American Israel Public Affairs Council said they needed to review the deal before rendering judgment. Today, they had a verdict.
While noting that they supported the premise of diplomatic efforts, AIPAC said “unfortunately, this proposed agreement fails to halt Iran’s nuclear quest.”
“Instead, it would facilitate rather than prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon and would further entrench and empower the leading state sponsor of terror.”
Going into final negotiations, AIPAC laid out five key “must-have” points in five areas: “anywhere, anytime” inspections, possible military dimensions, conditional sanctions, lengthy duration, and dismantlement of centrifuges. “In each of these areas, the proposed agreement has significant flaws,” the group said.
“This agreement not only fails to achieve its objectives in the nuclear arena, but it releases Tehran in a matter of years—regardless of Iranian behavior from ballistic missile sanctions and an arms embargo imposed by the United Nations Security Council. This late, unexpected concession will provide additional arms for terrorism and proxy wars, while strengthening Iran’s capabilities against our regional allies.”
AIPAC also objected to “leaving Iran on the threshold of a nuclear weapon—despite its history of violating international obligations” and sparking an arms race in the region.
“Proponents of the proposed agreement will argue that the only alternative to this agreement is military conflict. In fact, the reverse is true. A bad agreement such as this will invite instability and nuclear proliferation. It will embolden Iran and may encourage regional conflict,” the AIPAC statement continued.
“We strongly believe that the alternative to this bad deal is a better deal. Congress should reject this agreement, and urge the administration to work with our allies to maintain economic pressure on Iran while offering to negotiate a better deal that will truly close off all Iranian paths to a nuclear weapon. Congress should insist on a better deal.”
The AIPAC rejection puts lawmakers who could be swing votes on the Iran deal in the hot seat. Some of the undecideds are longtime backers of AIPAC, including Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), who figures prominently at each year’s conference in D.C.
“Chuck Schumer is supposed to be the guardian of Israel. He goes around everywhere, says my name is Schumer, it means guardian of Israel,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said on MSNBC. “Well, if you care about Israel, you will not put her in this box. If you care about the United States, you will not allow our chief antagonist to become a nuclear threshold nation guaranteed in nature with no restrictions for them to go beyond that. If you care about Americans, you will not give this regime one penny because that money goes into war machine that’s aimed at us too.”
The American Jewish Committee said it was still reviewing the deal, with executive director David Harris noting they’ll be “sharing our views with members of Congress once we’ve had the opportunity to better understand its details.”
The Zionist Organization of America called the deal “quite simply a catastrophe and a nightmare.”
“If there was ever a time for public protest calling upon your Member of Congress, that time time is surely now,” ZOA president Morton Klein said.
The ZOA is joining a coalition of groups including the Simon Wiesenthal Center, Stand With Us, the Republican Jewish Coalition, Rabbi Shmuley Boteach’s The World Values Network, and Christians United for Israel for a Stop Iran Rally on July 22 in Times Square. Scheduled speakers include former CIA Director James Woolsey, former House Intelligence Committee Chairman Pete Hoekstra (R-Mich.), GOP presidential candidate George Pataki, and Alan Dershowitz.
Predictably, J Street is launching a multi-million dollar campaign, including broadcast and print ads, to push Congress to support the deal.
“J Street also plans to bring US and Israeli security and political experts to brief lawmakers, influential political actors and journalists in Washington, DC and in key states about why this is a good agreement that advances US and Israeli national security interests. The organization plans to activate its 180,000 supporters to register their support for the Iran deal with legislators during the Congressional review period,” the group said today.
“J Street wants Congress to know that, despite some loud opposition to the deal coming from Jewish organizational leaders, our polling suggests that a clear majority of Jewish Americans agrees with us and backs the deal,” J Street president Jeremy Ben-Ami said, adding “this deal makes the United States, Israel and the entire world safer, and it would be highly irresponsible for Congress to reject it.”