If it’s going to push us to War, is it time for AIPAC to register as foreign Agent?

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

Most polls show that Jewish Americans are the Americans most enthusiastic about the diplomatic deal reached at Vienna between Iran and the UN Security Council over its civilian nuclear enrichment program.


So the umbrella group of lobbyists supposedly dedicated to representing Jewish Americans, the American Israel Political Affairs Committee, is lobbying for the deal, right?


It not only is sending lobbyists to the offices of all US congressional representatives and putting them under heavy pressure to reject the Vienna accords, but it or its subsidiaries are flooding the airwaves with vicious disinformation in an attempt to confuse the American public.

So my question is, on whose behalf is AIPAC intervening in American domestic politics? Even if the J-Street and LA polls are flawed, how likely is it that they are hiding an overwhelming and vehement opposition to the deal among American Jewry (the vast majority of whom vote for the Democratic Party and strongly supported Barack Obama for president)? Or that the gap between Jewish Americans and other Americans on this issue, discovered in the same polls, doesn’t actually exist?

The only logical possibility is that AIPAC is acting on behalf of the Likud government of Israel.

And if it is doing that, it falls under the 1938 Foreign Agents Registration Act. Presidents Eisenhower and Kennedy repeatedly demanded that the American Zionist Council, the forerunner of AIPAC, so register. Former Senator J. William Fulbright made a case for it in 1988. The 2005 prosecution of two AIPAC employees for passing a classified Pentagon document to an Israeli official should have pitched the question again but did not.

It matters because President Obama and Sec. John Kerry have repeatedly said that the likely alternative to the Iran deal is a war with Iran down the road. Such a war could well be the coup de grace for an already anemic American economy (wages have not recovered from 2008-9).

Logically speaking, AIPAC is ipso facto lobbying our congressmen and women, who are supposed to be representing us Americans, on behalf of a foreign government, to reject peace and send our children to war. In my own view that is pretty despicable.

President Obama is complaining about Israeli interference in US politics. But he has only himself to blame. As long as AIPAC is treated differently from other lobbies for a foreign state, and as long as Obama has his ambassador to the UN, Samantha Powers, veto UN Security Resolutions condemning Israel for its massive violations of international law in Gaza and the West Bank, this kind of interference will only mount.

Admittedly, FARA as a law is imperfectly administered in Washington, where foreign countries employ 1,000 lobbyists to pressure Congress. But in the case of Egypt or, say, Vietnam, the lobbyists have to report their activities, and lawmakers too identified with foreign states can suffer reputationally. Also, expert witnesses who testify before Congress, under a recent law, have to be transparent about who they’ve been working for. The documents filed under FARA can also be gotten from the Department of Justice by US citizens, whereas AIPAC’s activities happen in the dark. In fact, it for instance lobbied Congress heavily in favor of the Iraq War but now denies the fact, and we have no way of double checking. FARA reporting would be helpful.

The situation with AIPAC is not unique. Other American ethnic groups often lobby on behalf of a home country. Armenian-Americans tried to use their lobby (which also isn’t registered with FARA) to pressure Nancy Pelosi to have the US Congress recognize the Armenian genocide, at the risk of a rupture of US relations with Turkey. (I’m not taking sides on this issue, just recounting what happened). But then I think domestic US lobbies on behalf both of Turkey and of Armenia should register under FARA.

President Obama should ask Atty. General Loretta Lynch to begin proceedings to make AIPAC register, as well.

19 Responses

  1. “pretty despicable.”, Juan, that’s is the understatement of the year: offering and sending our people to slaughter to please a foreign country is moral turpitude. It’s also deception because it is not announced as such, which is signified by the fact that AIPAC is still listed as domestic. lobby.

  2. Is there a procedure for citizens to petition to force AIPAC, aka Bibi Rallies Republicans, as foreign lobbyists?

  3. Not being American I cannot enter debate about the legal status of AIPAC, but I do think the blunt choice between the deal and war maybe somewhat less bleak than Obama’s assertion suggests. If Congress denies approval in such a way as to obviate even a Presidential veto, then the rest of the world will go ahead with it anyway and it its difficult to see what AIPAC could possibly gain from that.

    Once the deal is in place, is seems highly unlikely as things stand that Iran would renege on its undertakings. Instead it will be occupied re-establishing its industrial base, and entering more fully into unfolding plans for closer commercial integration eastwards, plans which are quintessentially coöperative and necessarily contain mutually defensive commitments since they are of a scale that cannot be left at risk from the random destructive interruption of any part of them.

    Furthermore, rendering Iran transparently free from nuclear weapons allows for the resurrection of the UN commitment to a nuclear free ME and any nation seeking to impede that would surely have to come out and justify Israel’s possession of nuclear weapons. One could be mistaken, of course, but AIPAC seems to be about to finesse itself.

    • Agreed. The deal is done. Iran’s Quds chief openly supported it, stating that the military in Iran has the most things to worry about but that the deal over-all is positive for Iran. He references the UNSC resolution accepting the deal as the authority on it,nothing about US. Aipac is losing.

      • A fuller post would be better. But, in short, if US cannot back this deal for whatever reasons, and then continue to back it, then even if Iran lives up to its part, it will be far easier—very arguably inevitable—for you-know-who to manipulate us into “surgical” air strikes, and whatever unpredictable events that follow.

        Especially after the next election the US President (whomever) WILL have been totally bought and paid for by who-know-who, and the camel will have his nose, as well as his head and most of his body well into the tent. Even in the best case scenario this is going to be a closely-run thing.

        Read the text of Obamas speech at American University for a coldly diplomatic, and pretty convincing assessment.

    • As I have noted in several other postings here, Israel, AIPAC and the congress critter bombers have ALREADY LOST.

      Once the UNSC signed off on the deal as representatives of the entire UN, the deal was cast in concrete. As of right now, the entire world, except for the USA and Israel will openly trade with Iran while the IAEA continues with its boring inspections.

      While the congress critters can whine forever on fox news, there is nothing they can actually do that will make any difference.

      – If congress critters threaten other countries they will be laughed at and told to shut up and go sit in the corner.

      – If congress critters actually start a trade war, USA companies will permanently loose access to most of the global markets and European and Asian companies will reap the benefits.

      – If congress critters try to use the financial transaction banking network as a bludgeon, the rest of the world will simply switch over to the new Chinese network and quit trading in dollars, drastically lowering he USA standard of living.

      – Sure the congress critter could declare war on Iran, but that will not go very well, especially since both Russia and China have publicly stated they would help Iran.

      The best thing to do now is simply treat the congress critter antics as entertainment, although we should force all the Israelis that are prodding the congress critter to be even more ridiculous than normal to register as foreign agents.

    • A nuclear-free ME begins with Israel signing the non-proliferation treaty and openly discussing it’s shadowy nuclear program, mostly constructed through espionage and stolen technology.

  4. Good on you Professor Cole, this Zionist influence needs to be discussed in America, and the discussion needs to begin right now. The world also needs to hear the views of the many Jewish people who stand opposed to the likes of Netanyahu, and the News Media must aire their views immediately. In a perfect world Israel/Palestine would be a true democracy. A democracy representative of all it’s people. Until the Palestinians are resettled back into their native land, then nothing will advance towards a peaceful solution.

  5. AIPAC (and now Chuck Schumer) obviously represents Likud, the right-wing Israeli party, not American Jews, and certainly not US national interest.

  6. A friend wanted Juan Cole to also factor in the role played by Christians United For Israel (CUFI) regarding money spent and lobbying against the nuclear agreement

  7. Note that Gary Samore has just quit as head of the lobby group “United Against Nuclear Iran”.

    The reason? He looked at the deal and decided that, hey, it’s actually not too shabby.

    Which meant that he had no place in this lobby group, who’s membership are, obviously, refusing to be satisfied with anything less than Bombs Away On Tehran!!!!

    Fancy that: a lobbyist who actually says what he means and means what he says.

    No wonder they pushed him out.

  8. ‘American Jews at the Service of Netanyahu’ – MUST READ HAARETZ article regarding Schumer/AIPAC

    Who are U.S. Jewish leaders really representing when they lobby the American president on behalf of Israel’s prime minister? Not their fellow countrymen, for sure.

    Uri Misgav Aug 09, 2015 5:49 PM Hareetz

    link to webcache.googleusercontent.com

  9. British citizens are to be encouraged to sign the petition on the parliament website to have Netanyahu arrested for war crimes when he comes to London. I would also sign a petition to have Blair, Bush, Cheney etc arrested for the same reasons
    Petition: Benjamin Netanyahu to be arrested for war crimes when he arrives in London : link to petition.parliament.uk

  10. I thought there were officials in the U.S. government trying to push Aipac in its former life to be required to register under FARA. Way over due.

  11. Using your article to tweet for foreign agent status, thanks! #Free Palestine #Boycott Israel

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