It is perhaps a sign of the weakening of the Israel Lobby after three significant defeats over the Chuck Hagel confirmation, bombing Syria and imposing new sanctions on Iran that the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) should be willing to crawl out from the shadows on and around Capitol Hill where it usually operates in an attempt to convince the public of the need to confront the Mullahs. And it is perhaps a reminder of its still considerable clout that the forum that it chose to argue its case was The New York Times, the "Gray Lady" of Times Square, America’s self-described "newspaper of record."
I can’t recall the last time I saw an AIPAC op-ed in the Times, but I rather suspect it was some years ago. Far more common are the opinion pieces produced by those who are of a like mind but not directly associated with the organization, people like Joe Lieberman, John McCain, Bill Kristol, James Woolsey and John Bolton.
Bolton even has a website and a super PAC, which he describes grandiloquently as founded "…for one purpose: to send leaders to Washington who aren’t afraid to fight for the security and prosperity of our country both at home and abroad." He is currently completely on message with AIPAC, soliciting funds because "Iran is taking America to the cleaners. As Iranian warships steam through the Suez Canal heading for open waters of the Atlantic Ocean near the United States, we should be reminded of an important fact: Iran doesn’t fear the United States, our allies, or international sanctions. It fears no one. Iran’s recent actions are a clear message that they are feeling quite pleased with themselves and that they have broken through the West’s regime of sanctions and feel secure enough to project their power on a global scale… Friend, are you comfortable with the fact that Iran’s power is growing and America’s power is declining? I’m certainly not… Imagine this – if Iran completes its nuclear weapons program those ships in the Atlantic could be carrying nuclear tipped missiles. Its radical Islamic regime could park them off of New York, Boston or Washington and directly threaten American power and security."
Bolton, who ignores the fact that Iran has a minuscule defense budget and third rate military capabilities, also includes a little survey for his supporters on the email version of his message denouncing Iran. One question/comment is priceless. It goes: "Negotiations over the future of Iran’s nuclear weapons program will either be futile, or, worse, will legitimize Iran’s drive for nuclear weapons. Either way, Iran will be just months away from making a deliverable nuclear weapon, or many more at a time of its choosing. Do you believe the United States should support Israel in preventing a nuclear Iran?" The correct response is "Sure John, let’s go kick some butt. Here’s my $100 contribution." If you answer "no" it is undoubtedly regarded as a statistical anomaly. If you look for a question posing the real stumper, which is why and how a buffoon like Bolton was appointed United Nations Ambassador for the United States of America you will not find it. The correct answer is that it occurred during the administration of George W. Bush, which is also a statistical anomaly.
But back to AIPAC. The op-ed "Don’t let up on Iran," written by Michael Kassen and Lee Rosenberg, respectively president and chairman of the board of that organization, starts out with two lies in its very first sentence: "Like all Americans, we strongly hope that the Obama administration’s diplomatic efforts lead to the peaceful dismantling of Iran’s nuclear weapons program." First of all, AIPAC has been dismissing diplomacy while urging the military option against Iran for years and second, even the US and Israeli governments agree that Iran does not in fact have a nuclear weapons program. Besides which, AIPAC on its website says something that is significantly different, demanding steps to "…prevent Iran from achieving a nuclear weapons capability" which is something Tehran already has technically speaking and is therefore a mandate for war. One might also question how Kassen and Rosenberg are quite "like all Americans" in that they work for an organization that is self-described as "America’s Pro-Israel Lobby," but we’ll give that one a pass as three lies in one sentence would be too much even for the New York Times.
The op-ed proceeds in Boltonesque fashion, though not quite showing the exuberance of Iranian missile ships parked near Boston Harbor, to lay out the phony case for piling more sanctions onto Iran, an argument that goes something like this: sanctions brought Iran to the negotiating table in the first place so more sanctions will make them surrender completely. If that were true it would be the first time that sanctions have ever produced such a result. Far more often they have resulted in war and Iran has already given notice that it will pull out of discussions if it were to be further punished.
Given the AIPAC world view, there is no consideration of any give and take in the process to come up with a solution acceptable to both sides, just a "clear message" to Iran that "it will not achieve its objectives unless it satisfies ours." And what are "ours?" They are apparently continuously expanding, having started with preventing Iran from having an actual bomb before becoming eliminating the capability to do so. They now also include consideration of Iran’s "long range ballistic missiles that could reach American military bases in the Middle East, as well as our ally Israel," an assertion that incorporates another lie as Israel is not an American ally. It is a set of demands that is infinitely elastic enabling one to include contentious issues other than the existing nuclear program, designed to produce failure leading to exercise of the military option. And picking up on the Bolton line about imminent threat to the homeland, the authors note that Tehran "…has even dispatched warships to sail close to the maritime borders of the United States in the Atlantic Ocean."
Kassen and Rosenberg call for the "clarity" provided by threatening Iran with more sanctions and international isolation so that the country will be forced "to recognize the stark implications of intransigence." They recommend reaching that desired point by having Congress "outline the acceptable terms for a final accord" to include "at a minimum, the dismantling of its nuclear program," maintenance of existing sanctions and a rigorous inspection scheme along the lines of the harshly punitive Nuclear Weapons Free Iran Act currently sponsored by Senators Mark Kirk and Robert Menendez.
Of course there would be a constitutional problem in having Congress (where AIPAC has nearly total control) run foreign policy, but Kassen and Rosenberg explain that "we must not allow Iran to dictate the appropriate role of Congress." Much better if AIPAC does it, apparently, with the dynamic duo noting that 14,000 "Americans from all walks of life" will be carrying "this bipartisan message to Capitol Hill" as part of AIPAC’s annual Washington policy conference, which ends today with a speech by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Washington power brokers did indeed turn out in large numbers, together with their media and punditry accomplices. AIPAC still has the power to break politicians who go off message and one can expect that when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu takes the podium there will be a replay of the Stalinist Supreme Soviet gatherings where everyone was afraid to be the first to stop clapping. The message from Netanyahu, from AIPAC, and possibly even from The New York Times will be "Don’t let up on Iran."