The Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act was introduced in the Senate on December 20, 2013. It gained steam rapidly and by January 14 the bill had 59 co-sponsors--43 Republicans and 16 Democrats. Then something funny happened. Outsiders actually read the bill and it became apparent that the bill was "designed to torpedo the Nov. 24 first step nuclear agreement between Iran and the P5+1". They also began to realize that this was a Wag-the-Dog act that would practically give Israel control over when and how it could drag the U.S. into war with Iran. The bill's momentum was stopped in late January and no other co-sponsors signed on to it. President Obama spoke out forcefully against the bill and pledged to veto it in his January 28 State of the Union address and at least three Democratic Senators responded by dropping their support for the bill. And on on February 6, after seeing that the bill was not gaining bipartisan support, AIPAC agreed with the bill's main sponsor, Senator Menendez, to delay the vote. AIPAC issued a statement on February 9 saying that although they agreed not to push for an immediate vote, they still strongly supported the bill.
On February 17 Bibi Netanyahu met with the Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations and demanded that Iran dismantle its enrichment facilities and centrifuges. Netanyahu made it clear that he wouldn't be satisfied if Iran just dismantled a few centrifuges, or even half its centrifuges. No, Netanyahu demanded, “Zero centrifuges. Not one. Zero. They don’t need any centrifuges and they don’t have the right to enrichment."
Of course, this would be a deal breaker. No Iranian government is going to give up their right to enrich as I discuss here.
On February 21, AIPAC's President, Michael Kassen, and its Chairman of the Board, Lee Rosenberg, published a letter in the New York Times demanding " the dismantling of its [Iran's] nuclear program, so that Iran has neither a uranium nor a plutonium pathway to a nuclear weapon." The letter spelled out why they believed we must be tough on Iran and why we needed this bill. They then wrote that "we agreed with Mr. Menendez on delaying a vote in the Senate, but we remain committed to the bill’s passage.. . Next week, more than 14,000 Americans from all walks of life will carry this bipartisan message to Capitol Hill as part of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s annual policy conference."
And then on February 24 the Republicans turned aggressive, saying they would refuse to vote on bills that would help fight sexual assaults in the military until Harry Reid allowed the Iran Sanctions bill to come up for a vote. The Republicans came under fire for using military rape as a bargaining chip and by February 26 they relented and agreed to let the anti-rape bills come to a vote. That doesn't mean the Republicans have given up pushing for the sanctions bill. No, now they are trying to hold benefits for veterans hostage until the sanctions bill is brought to a vote.
Why push this bill now? The IAEA just released a report saying that Iran is complying with its obligations under the interim agreement. Most importantly, they are destroying their stockpile of 20% enriched uranium. They had 196 kg before the agreement; now they have only 160.6 kg. Even under Netanyahu's worst case, scare mongering scenarios, the interim deal would set back Iran's nuclear program by four weeks. Think about it We could live with Iran's program as it existed in November without having to go to war. Surely we are safer under the interim deal than we were in November, now that we have four additional weeks to catch and bomb Iran should it decide to break out and build a nuclear arsenal.
Yet despite this, the Republicans are pushing this bill like there is no tomorrow. And why does AIPAC feel the need to send 14,000 people to lobby Capitol Hill for this bill NOW if they have agreed to delay it? Is it possible that AIPAC is using subterfuge to look like they are backing off, while they are really pushing for this bill as hard as they can behind the scenes? Are the Republican's pushing this bill for an immediate vote at AIPAC's behest, despite AIPAC's pledge to hold off? The answer is an unequivocal "Yes". Just watch this video of Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell demanding that the Senate be allowed to vote on the sanctions. Skip to 3:37 and watch McConnell spill the beans. AIPAC is, according to McConnell pushing for an immediate vote despite their pledge less than three weeks earlier not to.
And if you don't believe that Senator McConnell has provided enough evidence, then read this letter that AIPAC's President wrote to AIPAC's supporters
Some have suggested that by not calling for an immediate vote on the legislation, we have abandoned our support for the bill. Nothing could be further from the truth.
In fact, we remain strongly committed to the passage of the Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act.
It looks like AIPAC is trying to have its cake and eat it too. They stopped pushing for this bill's immediate passage in a highly visible way after they saw it was going nowhere. They want to appear bipartisan. They also want to appear like they are reasonable and are willing to give negotiations a chance to solve the problem. They don't want to be held responsible for torpedoing the negotiations and setting the United States on a path to war.
Yet Bibi Netanyahu and his right wing allies in Israel are panicking that the negotiations just might work. Their goal goes beyond making sure that Iran isn't just prevented from getting a nuclear weapon. If that was their goal, then setting back the time it would take Iran to break out and build a weapon by four weeks would be seen as progress. But Bibi and company reveal their true agenda by pushing for a deal they KNOW that Iran will not accept--zero centrifuges and zero enrichment capabilities. There are only two logical reasons for pushing this. 1) Bibi and friends want to sabotage the negotiations and draw the U.S. into a war against their enemy or 2) they want to keep the Iran conflict front and center to divert world attention away from their attempts to sabotage a two-state solution by building more settlements in violation of international law and world opinion.
Bibi gave AIPAC their marching orders. AIPAC saluted. AIPAC is working behind the scenes to get our senators to jump and the Republicans are asking "how high?" Any RESPONSIBLE politicitian, any politician who would put American interests ahead of Israel's would tell Netanyahu
I see what you are trying to do. You're trying to sucker us into an unnecessary war. Do you know what is in America's national security interests? I'll tell you. It is in our interests to make sure that Iran doesn't build a nuclear weapon. It is in our interests to be able to catch Iran in time if they decide to break out and build a nuclear weapon. And by your own admission, the interim agreement pushes them further away from nuclear weapons breakout capablitiy by giving us an extra four weeks to detect them. If there was no imminent need to bomb them in November just before the agreement then why should we choose an unnecessary path that will lead to war? You might not have noticed it, but Americans are weary of war. We have lost thousands of lives and trillions of dollars in the Afghanistan and Iraqi wars. We do not want to fight a war on your behalf if we can avoid it.
It isn't necessary for Iran to destroy all its centrifuges and give up all its enrichment capability for your security. It certainly isn't in our interest to demand that Iran do so if, by making this demand, it torpedoes any chance for a deal. If you want to continue on making this demand, fine--continue doing so. But don't drag us into it. If you want Iran to give up all its nuclear capability--if you think this is so vital to Israeli security that you are willing to go to war, and drag us into a war as well, then I suggest you try one other thing before doing so. Put your own nuclear capabilities on the line first Tell Iran that you will be willing to give up your nuclear arsenal if Iran got rid of all its centrifuges.
Oh, I know you can't possibly give up your entire arsenal so long as your conflict with the Palestinians and their supporters continues. But you could offer to put your facilities under the same IAEA inspection regime that Iran is subjected to and dismantle a token number of bombs with a pledge to dismantle them all upon final resolution of the conflict. Make this offer and see whether Iran becomes more flexible in their negotiations. Who knows where this might lead? Maybe they would be willing to cut the number of their centrifuges in half. Maybe more. Maybe they would be willing to help you set up a fund that could raise tens or hundreds of billions of dollars to compensate Palestinians to give up their right of return. You won't know what is possible until you make the offer. In the mean time, get off our backs. Remember this the next time Israel wants the U.S. to veto a U.N. resolution, as we have done 42 times in the past: Israel needs the U.S. a lot more than the U.S. needs Israel.
Some may accuse me of being Anti-Semitic for implying that Jews are demonstrating dual loyalty by putting Israel's interests ahead of U.S. national security interests. Let me say this unequivocally so I won't be misunderstood. I AM accusing AIPAC of pushing a bill that is against our national security interest. And I AM saying that Israel is pushing us to pass that bill. I can not prove that AIPAC is pushing for this bill BECAUSE they are being prompted to do so by Israel. But I strongly suspect that to be the case.
But let me add that this isn't a matter of JEWS putting Israel's national security interests first. This is a matter of SOME Jews putting Israel's national security first. There are also many American Jews that are looking out for the welfare of our country. J Street, Jewish Voice For Peace, and Americans For Peace Now are Jewish groups that oppose additional sanctions against Iran at this time. On February 27, 82 big Democratic donors-most of them Jewish, signed a letter opposing new sanctions and supporting Obama's negotiating initiative. Peter Beinart, the author of The Crisis of Zionism, wrote in Haaretz:
In truth, the only person who can legitimately claim to speak for American Jews on the subject of Iran is the very guy In truth, the only person who can legitimately claim to speak for American Jews on the subject of Iran is the very guy American Jewish “leaders” oppose: Barack Obama. Look at the evidence. In 2012, Mitt Romney slammed Obama for not supporting tougher sanctions against Iran and for not more explicitly pledging that, if sanctions fail to curb Tehran’s nuclear program, the U.S. will attack. In so doing, Romney road-tested the critique leveled by Benjamin Netanyahu and many American Jewish “leaders.”
The result? Obama won 69 percent of the Jewish vote. According to an exit poll by J Street (the only organization to ask such a question), Jewish voters preferred Obama to Romney on Iran by a margin of 58 to 26 percent.