Obama will Veto new Iran Sanctions, Israel War Mandate pushed by AIPAC Senators

(By Juan Cole)

In his end-of-the-year press conference, President Obama had to defend his Iran negotiations in the face of a revolt within his own party.

Thirteen Democratic senators and thirteen Republican senators banded together to try to derail President Obama’s negotiations with Iran by slapping new sanctions on that country in the middle of delicate negotiations. This behavior is no surprise coming from the GOP, but the thirteen Democratic senators involved are traitors to the party. They are acting at the behest of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and other American supporters of Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who actively wants to torpedo Obama’s Iran talks. They are attempting to make the leader of their party, their president, fail in one of his major diplomatic initiatives. They are disloyal and the Democratic National Committee should pull their funding. They include most prominently Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) and Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA). If we could trace the money involved it would go back to billionaire American Likudniks.

The bill they crafted includes $55 bn in new sanctions on Iran and requires the United States to support Netanyahu in any war he launches on Iran. (President Obama and his officials have in the past have hinted broadly that Israel is welcome to attack Iran but is on its own if it does so.)

The proposed new sanctions split the Israel lobbies in the senate, being opposed by Sens. Diane Feinstein, Carl Levin, Barbara Boxer and seven other committee chairs, as well as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. As Democratic Party committee chairs, they had no choice but to maintain party discipline (and some of them probably don’t like Netanyahu or the prospect of more Middle East wars).

According to the transcript, this is what Obama said about the Senate rebellion:

“And so I’m not surprised that there’s been some talk from some members of Congress about new sanctions — I think the politics of trying to look tough on Iran are often good when you’re running for office or if you’re in office. But as President of the United States right now, who’s been responsible over the last four years, with the help of Congress, in putting together a comprehensive sanctions regime that was specifically designed to put pressure on them and bring them to the table to negotiate — what I’m saying to them, what I’ve said to the international community, and what I’ve said to the American people is let’s test it. Now is the time to try to see if we can get this thing done.

And I’ve heard some logic that says, well, Mr. President, we’re supportive of the negotiations, but we think it’s really useful to have this club hanging over Iran’s head. Well, first of all, we still have the existing sanctions already in place that are resulting in Iran losing billions of dollars every month in lost oil sales. We already have banking and financial sanctions that are still being applied even as the negotiations are taking place. It’s not as if we’re letting up on that.

I’ve heard arguments, well, but this way we can be assured and the Iranians will know that if negotiations fail even new and harsher sanctions will be put into place. Listen, I don’t think the Iranians have any doubt that Congress would be more than happy to pass more sanctions legislation. We can do that in a day, on a dime. But if we’re serious about negotiations, we’ve got to create an atmosphere in which Iran is willing to move in ways that are uncomfortable for them and contrary to their ideology and rhetoric and their instincts and their suspicions of us. And we don’t help get them to a position where we can actually resolve this by engaging in this kind of action. ”

Obama in his gentlemanly way excused the senators on the grounds that they might have tough reelection fights coming up in which hawkish posturing on Iran might be useful for fundraising and vote-getting. Nevertheless, the White House had earlier made clear that Obama would veto any such sanctions bill.

In fact, the vast majority of Americans approve of Obama’s Iran negotiations in polling and only a minority is opposed. So the rebel senators aren’t playing to the voters, but rather to determined and very wealthy special interests in the Northeast.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has warned that a major new round of sanctions would kill the negotiations.

The government of President Hassan Rouhani, elected this past summer, faces its own hard line hawks who want to cause the talks with the US to fail. Maj.-Gen. Mohammad Jaafari, the commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps, criticized Rouhani for being infected with Western ideas.

The question is if Jaafari from his side and Menendez and Schumer from their side can succeed in sinking the talks and ensuring we march off to war instead.

Related video:

Reuters on Obama’s defense of his Iran negotiations on Friday :

22 Responses

  1. The 13 warmonger Dems who obey AIPAC and joined 13 Repubs to demand more sanctions against Iran are:

    Menendez (NJ), Schumer (NY), Gillibrand (NY), Blumenthal (CT), Casey (PA), Cardin (MD), Coons (Del), Warner (VA), Donnelly (Indiana), Begich (Alaska), Pryor (Ark), Landrieu (LA), and Hagan (N.C.).

    The 10 Dem committee chairs who opposed them are Johnson (S.D.), Feinstein (CA), Levin (Mich.), Mikulski (MD.), Rockefeller (W.Va.), Boxer (Calif.)., Carper (Del.), Leahy (Vt.), Wyden (OR), and Harkin (Iowa).
    (Four of the 10 are retiring)

    • THank you for this. I have written to 5 of these folks (might we call them traitors??) and will do so for the rest in the Democratic Party. Not that they care what I think but at least I’ve told them how repulsive their actions are.

  2. The MSM should publish your piece as well as pieces of other critics of the Lobby. The American voter can not exercise proper opinion in the absence of open information.
    In my estimation the gravest problem in the USA is that the MSM acts like a propaganda machine, (while propagandizing itself as “free press”), and as a gate keeper for dissenting voices. It is a shame: let the American public hear what all political commentators have to say, otherwise there is no democracy.

    • Very well said…I for one have stopped watching/reading all corporate media channels. This includes NYT and WaPo which have sunk into the gutter.

      • In addition to reading Informed Comment, I podcast The Young Turks-there is alternative media.

  3. ” Iran is willing to move in ways that are uncomfortable for them and contrary to their ideology and rhetoric and their instincts and their suspicions of us.”

    Their ideology as spoken by the religious leaders: no nukes
    Their rhetoric – no nukes
    Suspicions of us – makes sense

    The term negotiations is a little inaccurate. The outcome we demand is is that Iran relinquish any sovereignty over its nuclear future, bombs or other endeavors. In return we will stop punishing the country for something it has never done.

  4. This sounds like a lesson from the Cold War: if your political party’s brand is to protect the citizens from the dire threat posed by the Soviet Union, you need the Soviet Union to remain a threat. I’ve always thought that the Iranian hard-liners and the AIPAC hard-liners had a tacit agreement to threaten each other in ways that maintained a state of tension short of major combat. Both side’s hard-liners profit from this state of affairs, and routinely say much the same thing: “How can we deal with those evil people that pose such an existential threat to our way of life?” Of course, anyone attempting to lower the threat levels, from either side, is viewed as an even greater threat.

  5. “I’ve heard arguments, well, but this way we can be assured and the Iranians will know that if negotiations fail even new and harsher sanctions will be put into place. Listen, I don’t think the Iranians have any doubt that Congress would be more than happy to pass more sanctions legislation. We can do that in a day, on a dime.”

    Seriously: least necessary message ever.

  6. “… but the thirteen Democratic senators involved are traitors to the party.”

    Let’s not forget these are the types of politicians who have no loyalty to others. Their only loyalty is to themselves. The same can be said of the Democratic and Republican parties. The oligarchs’ first loyalty in each case is to the party. If the Israel Lobby ever outlives its usefulness, it will find these senators and other politicians have no more loyalty to it than they have to the Constitution they have deceitfully pledged to uphold. Jeremy Ben-Ami of J Street once said on television that what some politicians say in private about Israel and its lobby is the opposite of what they say in public.

    • The only members of Congress that have historically been pro-Arab and anti-Israel have been those whose constituency provides a net local political benefit from doing so – even so these Representatives have taken their degree of political fallout by virtue of their stated positions.

      John Conyers, John Dingell and David Bonior -all from Metro Detroit were openly critical of Israel.

      Dingell in the early 1970s was described as likely the fourth or fifth most powerful member of the U.S. House but now has lost most of his key committee appointments and a few years ago lost his coveted chairmanship of the Energy and Transportation Committee when the Congressional Democratic Caucus replaced him with Henry Waxman.

      John Conyers’ wife in recent years, a Detroit City Council member was targeted in an FBI bribery probe and was convicted and sentenced to prison. There were questions of John Conyers’ possible connection to the scheme and at least one GOP member called for is resignation however he was never charged and no solid evidence of his complicity ever revealed.

      Conyers had also been on the infamous Nixon “Enemies List”.

      Both these U.S House members. had been previously profiled in a well-circulated Israeli newspaper article over their opposition to Israel’s interests.

      • “The only members of Congress that have historically been pro-Arab and anti-Israel have been those whose constituency provides a net local political benefit from doing so –”

        If the pro-Arab donors were ever to outbid the Israel lobby for the favors of Congress’s courtesans then Netanyahu and Israel’s right wing would be in deep trouble.

    • “…these senators and other politicians have no more loyalty to it than they have to the Constitution they have deceitfully pledged to uphold.”

      Their recitations of the Pledge of Allegiance are just as hypocritical as their oaths to uphold the Constitution. Their allegiance is not to the flag that is supposed to represent the United States. Their allegiance is to two flags: the flag with 50 corporate logos that replaced the stars and the other flag with only one star – the star of David. As for “liberty and justice for all” that is one of the cruelest pieces of mendacity that ever comes out of their mouths.

  7. Putting one’s own political and financial interest above that of the American people is shameful, and Schumer, Menendez, and their ilk should be voted out of office. Schumer, in particular , is noted for his two great legislative goals – catering to the Israel Lobby and catering to Wall Street. He is despicable.

    • The big question is, just how loyal are these shameless senators, to their own President and country? Here we have a President trying hard to avoid war and more deaths in this rather delicate situation with Iran, and who do they support? An alien nation, and it’s Prime Minister, who have consistently pushed for war, and an attack on Iran, which would cost us, the US, lives,and put us in a bigger economic mess. Menendez has taken his undying devotion to Israel to yet another low. His desire to do AIPAC’s bidding should make many Americans question his ethics and loyalty, and question him and the others of equal shame, why they keep insisting on NOT giving their own nation and President, a chance to avoid more American lives being lost, or at risk.
      I did not vote for Menendez, and he seems to avoid the questions I ask for as a constituent, because he is unable to defend his disgusting support for Israel. Americans should wake up to this unshakeable loyalty to Israel by Congress, that has cost us too much in many ways.

  8. Follow the money. The prominence of Senator Charles Shumer in this new sanctions effort is key. He is a major campaign contribution rainmaker for Northeast (and pro-Israel) money, and he is a past chair of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

  9. Such politicians who obsess themselves with confrontation and war obviously have no emotions about how people suffer under crises. Take 2 Senators; John McCain who despite having experienced the effects of war through his stint in Vietnam, somehow seems to be unable to fathom the emotionally- traumatizing consequences of his cheerleading for confrontation (war) with countries he doesn’t like; and for Robert Menendez, whose support for the embargo on Cuba, his homeland, and against his Cuban brethren, shows that he too doesn’t quite empathize with those who have gone through crises and hardship, which war always brings about.

  10. With the Senate Majority Leader against it, and the President against it, supporting this bill seems like an easy way for politicians to posture as “pro-Israel” without actually having to do anything that would undermine the President or the Iranian deal.

    Which of the 13 Democrats “mean it,” and which are so posturing, is an interesting question.

  11. Why have AIPAC not been designated as an agent of a foreign power since they represent only two percent of the of the U.S. population, but 100 percent of the Israeli Jewish population.
    AIPAC lobbying is almost exclusively aimed at US foreign policy towards Israel, so it would seem to be very much in their interest to keep things the way they are, since if Israel made peace with it’s Arab neighbours their raison d’etre would no longer exist resulting in a drying up of their donations.

  12. Can one even imagine how amoral and destructive the Lobby is when it blatantly sabotages efforts by an American President to resolve our most critical issues of war and peace?

    Just think about it. We have this egregious interference with our government’s most important operations, and, of course, we also have the law specifically designed to stop it (The Foreign Agents Registration Act) but our leaders are too intimidated to use it. It’s shocking that our government can’t even enforce the law for fear of the Israel Lobby. AIPAC can and should be shut down.

    • I agree Mr. Watson. My brother was killed in Iraq because of the lies of AIPAC! I want them tried for treason and hung by their necks1 Get what they are doing out to the public!!! The public won’t see this on Fox News or CNN so we must find a way to make everyone aware that these politicians are trying to murder our next generation for Israel!

  13. Cynicism, greed and Zionism are not a winning combination for Israel or the U.S, yet those are the motivating elements of Netanyahu and AIPAC, IMHO.

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