Obama 1, Netanyahu 0, as Dems & Public rally to Iran Deal

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

The Israel lobbies don’t win every fight on Capitol Hill, but over time they have tended to win the big ones in recent decades. This time, they are going down. Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu, a notorious narcissist, appears to have completely over-estimated his ability to deploy those lobbies to overrule President Obama on the United Nations Security Council’s deal with Iran to monitor its civilian nuclear energy program so as to forestall any break-out toward an atomic bomb.

On Tuesday, two Democrats known as Iran hawks came out for the agreement, Senator Robert P. Casey of Pennsylvania and Senator Chris Coons of Delaware. That made 31 Democrats and 2 independents in the Senate for Obama, and he only needed 34 to block an override of his veto if a resolution is passed in Congress and sent to his desk.

Update Then Wednesday morning Sen Barbara Mikulski of Maryland declared for the agreement, giving Obama his 34.

In fact, the Democrats and independents have 46 seats, and Obama has so far only lost two senators, Schumer and Menendez. If he can keep at least 39 Democrats and the two independents with him, he could even avoid the embarrassment of a resolution against the deal passing at all. Given that Casey and Coons are hard line Iran hawks, if Obama can get them, there are others in the undecided column that will be even easier to convince.

It is highly likely that most Democrats in the House will stand with the president, as well.

Casey’s office put out a 17-page statement on the deal. He said, “This agreement will substantially constrain the Iranian nuclear program for its duration, and, compared with all realistic alternatives, it is the best option available to us at this time . . . ” Casey called it “one of the most difficult decisions of my public career.”

Chris Coons said at a talk at the University of Delaware:

“I will support this agreement and vote against any measures to disapprove it in Congress . . . I will support this agreement because it puts us on a known path of limiting Iran’s nuclear program for the next 15 years with the full support of the international community. The alternative, to me, is a scenario of uncertainty and likely isolation. . . Finally, I will support this agreement despite its flaws because it is the better strategy for the United States to lead a coalesced global community in containing the spread of nuclear weapons.”

Coons does not like some aspects of the agreement very much, but he is convinced that to withdraw from it would isolate the US from the other Security Council members rather than isolating Iran. He also doesn’t think getting a better deal or reimposing severe sanctions is plausible.

Representatives and senators generally try to represent their constituents, and a recent poll [pdf] found that three-fourths of Democrats would find it acceptable or tolerable if Congress approved of the Vienna agreement with Iran. Moreover, 63% of the general public feels that way! Democrats and independents, who together make up at least two-thirds of the electorate, agree on this matter. Among Republicans, even 44% of them would find approval tolerable or acceptable.

The US has many ethnic lobbies, and the Israel lobby is not different from the Cuban or Armenian. The Israel lobbies have lost battles that were important to them (they initially opposed the massive arming of Saudi Arabia, but Saudi Arabia is nevertheless massively armed). Moreover, ethnic lobbies are often not completely united on certain issues, and that is what happened here.

Netanyahu faced the problem that the US Jewish community strongly favors the Iran deal. In polling, Jewish Americans are much more enthusiastic about it than the general American public, which also largely supports it. The left-leaning lobby for Israel, J-Street, has even spent millions on television advertising in support of the agreement. There is a sense in which the Iran deal is a project of the American Jewish community as well as of other Democrats, and is their reaction against the excesses of Bush’s Iraq War. A majority of the Jewish senators have come out for it. They believe that diplomacy can make Israel more secure, whereas flailing about fighting wars and undermining stability in the region has made it an even more dangerous neighborhood for Israel. The much more hawkish American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs, the Zionist Organization of America and other constituents of the Israel lobbies have all along represented a small proportion of the American Jewish community. It is admittedly an extremely wealthy sliver of the community, but votes and enthusiasm matter more than money, or Mitt Romney would be president.

The only suspense now is whether Obama can get 41 in the Senate and so forestall a negative resolution entirely. That would be best of all.


Related video added by Juan Cole:

AP: “Sen. Chris Coons to Vote ‘Yes’ on Iran Deal”

Note: This prescient post originally went up before Sen. mikulski’s announcement & it has been slightly revised to reflect this development.

17 Responses

  1. With Casey deciding to vote for the Iran P5+1 agreement I suddenly feel complete. I feel this way due to the fact I called Senator Casey’s office last Friday, and left a message for him to vote for the agreement. Now, I need to spread the word that the 150 billion dollars that Iran is receiving, is Iran’s money that was withheld by the sanctions. I say this, because I heard Donald Trump tell his followers that WE the U.S.A. are even giving Iran 150 billion dollars. Trump’s statement is completely wrong. I’m not sure if the candidates are that ill informed, or they are just lying. Americans are in desperate need of the truth on many issues. I am thankful for sites such as Doctor Cole’s, for he is a truthful person.

  2. The potential harm from the US rejecting the deal would be largely economic and self-inflicted, but much external damage from this extraordinarily untidy process has already been done. No small number of Europeans will feel quite chuffed if the US Legislature does reject the deal, By the way, Jeremy Corbyn looks set to become leader of the UK parliamentary opposition, and quite possibly the next UK prime minister. He wants to withdraw from NATO and abandon Trident. Blair is fiercely against Corbyn but the more vociferously he warns against him the more support Corbyn seems to attract.

  3. This is a WIN primarily for United States and then for its president Obama. Revived us as a nation not sold to special interest. This is epic. Not sure if any other president could repeat this. Obama leadership combined with bravery of 34 senators who proved that our nation’s interest come first. WE ARE A COUNTRY. This will help not to be a laughing stock in the Middle East and elsewhere. USA can act and deliver and not be hostage to other nations lobbing influence. Every president since Bush senior was afraid of Israel and our foreign policy was paralyzed. We lost so much by war in Iraq, sanction on Iran. As the result of sanction on Iran the BRICS was formed, straight bilateral trades on the rise side stepping, dollar. Hopefully we learned the result of putting interest of our ally first, we went from surplus and only superpower to debtor nation. Due to the militaristic nature, and excessive preoccupation in the ME it costs cost us a failure of pivoting to Asia. Contributing as a large component that Asian perceived China as less of a threat as regime change and sanctions. We could not balance our interest between Europe and Asia reaps the benefit of being in the middle.

  4. I live in Delaware and I wrote a letter to Chris Coons telling him I will actively campaign against him if he goes against this deal. He has visited our Muslim community in Delaware and many of us share the same view that we want peace with Persia. I’m so glad he changed his mind.

  5. Netenyahu has made a number of strategic mistake in the last few years. First he came up just short of supporting Romney in the 2012 election. Then he went to the Republican congress to object to the deal. All of which backfired.

  6. Joe: with all due respect, while I’m sure your phone call to Casey was heard, I think it was my 80 year old Mom’s demonstrating with others outside Casey’s District office last week that turned the tide and brought him around. An added plus: It was her first time participating in a political demonstration.
    All kidding aside, Casey and the others who supported the President have made the Middle East a bit safer. But those of us who support this deal will have to stay vigilant. The Republican congress has lost this round but they aren’t going to stop trying to sabotage the deal.

  7. In 1963, J. William Fulbright, Arkansas senator 1945/75, claimed millions tax-deductible dollars from philanthropic Americans was sent to Israel and then recycled back to the US for distribution to organizations seeking to influence public opinion in favor of Israel (get more money.)
    In 2015, AIPAC created Citizens for a Nuclear Free Iran, classified under section 501(c)4 of the tax code, and spent some millions of dollars purportedly, “to tilt US politicians against the Iran deal.” Next thing we know, Kerry promises Billions of US Taxpayers’ dollars to give Israel next-generation weaponry, complete their Iron Dome, enhance missile systems, mapping technologies, new capabilities to detect and destroy terrorism “that could be used to threaten Israeli civilians” and Obama propose Netanyahu to “begin the process aimed a further strengthening our efforts to confront conventional and asymmetric threats” and to Secure a new 10-year “Memorandum of Understanding” with the Jewish state that “would cement for the next decade our unprecedented levels of military assistance.” Read it ripin’ and bleedin’ US taxpayers.
    See? Zionists spend some millions making believe they are “outraged by…” (fill here whatever you want, after all we are going to be brain-washed by the NY Times, LA Times, Boston Herald, Chicago Tribune, etc. to accept like sheep whatever they want us to believe) and reap… BILLIONS!#$% Of money we #$% desperately need!
    So, after some 52 years later, the Three-Card Monte trick Fulbright said, is STILL being played by Zionism on us.
    Are we so easy? Can’t we do something against it? How to counteract the NY Times, Boston Herald, LA Times, etc penetration? We need to do something. IMHO.

    • The history of the relationship with Israel, at least since 1967, has always been that of a huge and ongoing shake-down.

      Along these same lines, the money Israel “paid” in compensation for those they killed on the USS Liberty in 67 was also, indirectly, US tax dollars.

      Some underemployed economist out there ought to do some Present Value calculations of how much each US citizen has paid, depending on their age, for our largesse over the years. Not saying it’d every be published, realities being what they are, but it’d be an eye opener and it might get posted here as a guest piece….

  8. For some time I believed that Bibi was just being an errand boy for the Saudis, but after observing his erratic ways I have concluded that he’s fully unhinged.

  9. Netanyahu (or whoever behind him) 2, as they got the best deal from all possible deals (including a non-deal) for Israel and they got to protest it too and ask for compensation and what else. Iranian people -2 as their money is given to their government and Syria is waiting for them.

  10. Surely David Frum would have been front and center when Reagan began talks of detente with the Evil Empire of the USSR. Certainly Nixon would have been criticized by the neocons for pumping money into China as a trading partner. All in all those two precursors to the Iranian deal have not worked out to badly….better than the two wars the neocons inspired.

  11. This may turn out to be an historic turning point in Israel policy for the victory over Netanyahu, Schumer and AIPAC on an issue that the Israeli government pronounces fundamental to their existence demonstrates what united world powers can achieve.

  12. Congressman Sander Levin from Michigan’s Ninth Congressional District Metro Detroit, the ranking Democrat on the House Ways and Means Committee, Jewish, and a strong Israel supporter, has given unflinching support to the Iran deal as in that nation’s best interests:

    link to levin.house.gov

    In response, the GOP Ninth Congressional District and other local Republicans have sponsored rallies in opposition to the Iran nuclear accord and targeted the Jewish community for political recruitment. The Michigan Republican Party’s executive committee has added a plank to its platform expressing support for Israel.

  13. Why don’t Americans – I am one – learn US history properly? Imagine how much easier this process would be if Americans knew the truth about American actions in Iran…

    One day they will know, and things will be a lot different I hope.

  14. Bibi’s dreams of empire fade into the backdrops of Palmyra and dead babies on the beach.
    More images of victims, sooner might have done some good. There’s been an endless stream to choose from.
    Now the consequences of the Long War are intruding on the self perceived civility of the West. Baby bodies don’t go well with morning coffee.
    Politicians will demand “Who lost the Long War?”
    That’s the same thing they asked after Vietnam.

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