Lebanon Pulse

AIPAC sets 'guidelines' for Iran nuclear deal

Article Summary
AIPAC, the American Israel Political Action Committee, makes the case for congressional pressure on Iran.

In The New York Times on Feb. 22, AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee) leaders Michael Kassen and Lee Rosenberg, provided “guidelines” for the Obama administration’s diplomatic efforts to achieve a peaceful dismantling of Iran’s nuclear weapons program. They said AIPAC supports “a policy that complements the current negotiations with a range of congressional actions that threaten greater economic and diplomatic pressure on the Iranian government.” They continued, “In fact, diplomacy that is not backed by the threat of clear consequences poses the greatest threat to negotiations — and increases the prospects for war — because it tells the Iranians they have nothing to lose by embracing an uncompromising solution.”

This approach of “supporting the current policy” with these provisos reminds me of President Ronald Reagan’s statement, “Trust, but verify,” while meeting with Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev on Dec. 8, 1987, at the signing of the INF (Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces) Treaty.

The AIPAC leaders said, “Our message to Tehran should be clear: It will not achieve its objectives unless it satisfies ours.” Whose objectives are these? AIPAC’s? Israel’s? Or both?

On March 17, negotiations with Iran by the five permanent UN Security Council members and Germany, or P5+1, will resume and it is assumed that failure would probably not be an option. It is also assumed that a partial lifting of sanctions will continue as long as Iran is forthcoming in responding to the terms of reference that have been spelled out at the outset of the negotiating process.

AIPAC’s warning of dire consequences is misplaced and show that the organization is surreptitiously skeptical of the US administration and its allies’ conduct of the negotiations: “We urge Congress to outline for Iran the acceptable terms of final accord. This must include, at a minimum, the dismantling of its nuclear program, so that Iran has neither a uranium nor a plutonium pathway to a nuclear weapon.” It must be assumed that the P5+1 has determined the acceptable terms of a final accord and it is the height of arrogance for AIPAC leaders to spell out the minimum requirements for the dismantling of Iran's nuclear program.

AIPAC recommends that Congress also “should exercise oversight to ensure Tehran understands that our existing core sanctions architecture will remain in place for the full duration of the negotiations.” AIPAC suggests, “Congress must oversee continued implementation of the interim agreement: We cannot permit Iran to violate trust again by advancing its nuclear program even as it joins negotiations.”

This sounds as if the US administration as well as the five countries are not aware of what ought to be done, and that even Iran does not know what it should do. Because of this presumed deficit of knowledge by the US administration, AIPAC states: “Congress should proclaim that Iran would pay a steep price for its recklessness.”

The writers mention that “next week, more that 14,000 Americans from all walks of life will carry this important message to Capitol Hill as part of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee annual policy conference." While the AIPAC leaders concluded that they “support the president’s diplomatic effort to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapon,” they added, “We also believe the best chance for success in this purpose lies with continued congressional pressure on Iran throughout the negotiations.”

Why is it necessary to exercise oversight in parallel with the US delegation resuming negotiations as if the administration has not sufficiently studied and researched Iran’s position? Why start with a threatening tone and not wait for the outcome of the second negotiations in Vienna?

The official US team and its European Union counterpart have shown that they have what they need to hold the second negotiations on March 17.

Of course, Congress should have the right of review and assessment of the outcome, but the negotiating team dispatched by the US administration should be given latitude to carry out the negotiations.

Notwithstanding that AIPAC does not speak for all Americans, and while it supports Israel’s interest and policies, this does not necessarily mean that US interests are totally identical to Israel’s, despite the close relationship that exists.

It is surprising that questioning Israel about nuclear weapons in Dimona has not been raised at all by Congress or others, and that the paradox of Iran being a member of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) while Israel is not is also not brought up.

Why aren't they?

Perhaps, when the 14,000 Americans are dispatched by AIPAC, I wonder if some members of Congress might ask in return about Israel’s nuclear weapons. I wonder also what the 14,000 Americans who are dispatched by AIPAC would answer!

Found in: us-iranian relations, p5+1, nuclear negotiations, israeli lobby, israel-us relations, israel, iran, aipac

Clovis Maksoud is a former ambassador and permanent observer of the League of Arab States at the United Nations and its chief representative in the United States for more than 10 years.


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