The Israel Lobby’s $50M Campaign Against The Iran Nuclear Deal

If the Iran deal passes, Israel loses. The Israel lobby is spending big on whatever it takes to make sure this doesn’t happen.

By Richard Silverstein

WASHINGTON — The next 60 days offer a fateful window through which Congress will review the Iran nuclear deal announced last week to great fanfare by the P5+1 powers and their Iranian counterparts.

At the end of this period, both the House and Senate will vote on the agreement. Though the GOP has a majority in the latter body, it’s by no means a given that the vote will go against the deal. The Los Angeles Times reports there may be a few Republican senators who can be swayed if public opinion is running in favor.

To that end, the various groups within the Israel lobby have announced a massive PR campaign seeking to move both public opinion and the votes of individual senators against the deal.

Last week, The New York Times reported that the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), a pro-Israel lobby, has created a stand-alone group, Citizens for a Nuclear Free Iran, for this purpose. It plans to spend $20-40 million on the effort.

The group’s website doesn’t list staff and a board of directors. Instead it lists an “advisory board” consisting of the usual hawkish Democratic former senators, including Mark Begich, Joe Lieberman, Mary Landrieu, Evan Bayh, and former Rep. Shelley Berkley. Clearly, this isn’t an independent organization, but rather one established and controlled by AIPAC. Unlike some of groups below which are casting their nets wide, AIPAC seems to be targeting Democratic senators on the fence.

So far this year, according to U.S. Senate public records, AIPAC has spent nearly $2 million on direct lobbying, more than it’s ever spent in any previous six-month period since 1999. This is a further indication of the group’s dead-seriousness in pursuing the defeat of the Iran measure. (more…)

Iran Deal Creates World’s Most Intrusive Inspection Regime

FDL alum and Emptywheel contributor, Jim White, wrote a great post today…

Iran, P5+1 Reach Historic Final Agreement, Frustrating Opponents Who Push for War

It has been nearly 20 months since the group of P5+1 countries (China, France, Germany, the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom and the United States) and Iran reached an interim agreement limiting Iran’s work on nuclear technology. Progress since that interim agreement has been painfully slow (and obstructed as much as possible by Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu, neocons in Congress and United Against Nuclear Iran), with a number of “deadlines” for achieving the final agreement missed. Journalists covering the final phase of negotiations in Vienna over the last two weeks eventually got so exasperated with the process that they began reporting on the number of Twizzlers consumed by the negotiators.

Fortunately, the US, led by John Kerry, with technical support from Ernest Moniz (with the backing of Barack Obama) and Iran, led by Javad Zarif, with technical support from Ali Akbar Salehi (with the backing of Hassan Rouhani) did not give up on the process. A final agreement (pdf) has now been published.

The following sentence appears in the agreement twice. It is the final sentence in the Preface and is the third point in the Preamble:

Iran reaffirms that under no circumstances will Iran ever seek, develop or acquire any nuclear weapons.

That is the heart of what the entire process has been about. Iran’s uranium enrichment work, which grew to over 18,000 centrifuges installed at two facilities, was viewed as a rapid route to a nuclear weapon. Even though no facility in Iran has been identified where enrichment was proceeding to the highly enriched levels needed for a bomb and Iran had demonstrated no ability to make a bomb from highly enriched material, “conventional wisdom” stated that Iran would only need a few months (as of the signing of the interim agreement) to produce a working bomb. Throughout the process, Iran has claimed the work was only for peaceful uses (electricity production and the production of medical isotopes). Things had gotten really ugly back in 2011 when the IAEA lent credence to claims that originated in the Laptop of Death, where Iran was accused of past work aiming at developing a bomb. By making the blanket statement that Iran will never seek a nuclear weapon, Iran is publicly acknowledging that the West will reinstate economy-crippling sanctions should evidence surface that it is seeking a weapon. Further, by saying it “reaffirms” as much, Iran is sticking to its previous claims that it has not sought a weapon in the past. Those dual points are important enough to be appear twice on the first page of the agreement. {…}

Col. Pat Lang also wrote about the vitriolic response by Bibi and UANI, et al…

The Likud government of Israel is ordering its minions in the US Congress to vote against Obama. Natanyahu, Naftali Bennett and the like are confronted with the possibility that Israel may not continue to be the chief meddler and dominant power in the ME. The threat they fear is not so much the distant improbability of Iran obliterating Tel Aviv and Haifa. The Iranians know very well that the result of such an attack would be US attacks that would truly obliterate Iran as an existing state. No, what the Israelis fear is the loss of dominance in the ME, the ability to meddle at will and do such stupid things as to act as benefactors for JAN in Syria.

Media flunkies of Likud/AIPAC have been ordered into the fight against the deal. IMO Judy Woodruff, Wolf Blitzer, Jose Diaz-Balart, Andrea Mitchell and the like are trying hard to generate opposition to Obama’s deal. The method used is often to “interview” people like Lindsey Graham and Tom Cotton to give them the opportunity to attack the deal. The technique of asking “softball” questions so as to provide the chance to rave is a very old technique.

No matter. The effort will fail. The deal will be done. pl

BTW. Colonel (Ret) Larry Wilkerson appeared on TV this morning to defend the deal. He did a superb job. Kudos. pl

Here’s Col. Wilkerson talking about his CNN experience this morning and expanding on how this agreement will finally ‘shut the door’ on Bibi’s long history of fear-mongering over Iran’s nonexistent Nuclear Bomb program…

Multimillion-Dollar Ad Campaigns Aim to Influence Congressional Votes

CODEPINK protesters at Congressional hearing on Iran. (Photo: CODEPINK)

By Medea Benjamin

A nuclear deal with Iran could be a game changer for US foreign policy and for the Middle East. The P5+1 (the U.S., China, Russia, France and the United Kingdom, plus Germany) and Iran have been developing a comprehensive agreement that would freeze Iran’s ability to create a nuclear weapon and start the process of sanctions relief.

If it succeeds, this deal would dramatically decrease the probability of another costly war in the Middle East and could usher in an historic rapprochement between the US and Iran after 34 years of hostilities. US-Iranian collaboration against extremist groups from ISIL to Al Qaeda could help damp down the fires raging across the Middle East.

Key US allies, Israel and Saudi Arabia, oppose the deal. Both nations harbor long-standing hostilities toward Iran and both want to preserve their preferential relationship with the US. But the American people, frustrated by over a decade of US involvement in Middle East wars, support the initiative. A recent Washington Post/ABC News poll shows that 6 in 10 Americans support a plan to lift international economic sanctions against Iran in exchange for limits on its nuclear program.

Democrats back the agreement by an overwhelming majority of five to one, but even a plurality of Republican voters support the Iran nuclear deal. Why, then, will there be such a tough battle in Congress to approve a deal that the Obama administration has worked so hard to achieve and is supported by most Americans?

Some Republicans have a knee-jerk reaction to anything the Obama administration puts forth. And certain Republican and Democrat Congress members fundamentally distrust Iran, believe it is sponsoring militant groups like Hamas and Hezbollah, and think a deal will strengthen Iran to the detriment of Israel.

But the most compelling reason that so many elected officials will oppose the deal is the power of lobby groups and think tanks, backed by hawkish billionaires who are determined to quash a deal they see as bad for Israel.

Little known to the public, here are some of the groups:

United Against Nuclear Iran: Founded in 2008, UANI boasts a bipartisan powerhouse advisory board of former politicians, intelligence officials and policy experts. Cofounders Richard Holbrooke and Dennis Ross, and its president Gary Samore, have all worked in Obama’s White House. In June, UANI announced a multimillion-dollar TV, print, radio, and digital campaign with the message that “America Can’t Trust Iran, Concessions have gone too far.” Mark Wallace, UANI’s chairman and George Bush’s US ambassador to the UN, said, “We have a multi-million-dollar budget and we are in it for the long haul. Money continues to pour in.”

Secure America Now: Founded in 2011 by pollsters John McLaughlin and Pat Cadell, it is linked to right-wing pro-Israel factions in the US and abroad. The Advisory Board includes Col. Richard Kemp, who denounces the “global conspiracy of propaganda aimed at the total de-legitimization of the state of Israel” and former UN Ambassador John Bolton, who insists that “the biggest threat to our national security is sitting in the White House.”

The group labels Iran “the world’s largest sponsor of terrorism” and recently launched its own $1 million ad campaign against the nuclear deal. One ad features an American woman saying her father was killed by an IED in Iraq, followed by a menacing voice claiming “Iran has single-handedly supplied thousands of IEDs that have killed or maimed America’s troops overseas. Today, negotiators are pushing for a nuclear deal with Iran that would give them access to nuclear weapons.” It tells Americans to call their Senators and “speak out against a bad deal.”

Foundation for the Defense of Democracies: Founded just after the 9/11 attacks, this neoconservative think tank pushes for an aggressive military response in the Middle East and also follows a hawkish pro-Israel line. It advocates for crippling sanctions on Iran, including medicines, as a way to cause domestic hardship and internal turmoil and its experts are leading advocates for a US military strike on Iran.

American Security Initiative: This is a new group, also bipartisan, formed in 2015 by three former senators: Norm Coleman, Evan Bayh and Saxby Chambliss. In 2014 Norm Coleman, a Republican from Minnesota, became a registered lobbyist for the repressive Saudi regime, providing the Saudis with legal services on issues including “policy developments involving Iran.”

Its first campaign was a successful effort to pass the Corker-Menendez bill, which forces President Obama to submit the agreement to Congress before signing it. In March, the group launched a $1.4 million ad campaign aimed at Senator Schumer and other key senators with the message that the deal (which had not even been released) is “great for Iran, and dangerous for us.” One over-the-top, fear-mongering ad showed a suicide-bombing truck driver in an American city detonating a nuclear bomb, apparently on behalf of Iran. The message, albeit a crazy one, is that if Iran is allowed to get a nuclear weapon, it will attack the US.

AIPAC: The American Israel Public Affairs Committee is the largest pro-Israel lobby group. AIPAC, too, has been pushing sanctions and opposing the nuclear deal. It claims that Iran is the world’s leading state sponsor of terror and is racing toward a nuclear weapons capability. AIPAC spends millions of dollars lobbying but its real financial clout lies with the pro-Israel Political Action Committees (PACs) it is tied to.

In addition to lobbying against a deal in Washington, over the past several years AIPAC has also been promoting state-level bills mandating divestment of public funds from foreign companies doing business with Iran.

Dozens of states have passed such bills, and many are likely to stay in place even after a nuclear deal, complicating the federal sanctions relief that is a key element of the negotiations.

What is the source of the millions of dollars now being poured into the effort to squash the nuclear deal? Most comes from a handful of super-wealthy individuals. Home Depot founder Bernard Marcus gave over $10 million to the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies. Other multimillion donors are hedge fund billionaire and Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs board member Paul Singer, and Charles Bronfman of the Seagram liquor empire and board chair of Koor Industries, one of Israel’s largest investment holding companies.

The largest donor is Sheldon Adelson, a casino and business magnate who contributed almost $100 million to conservative candidates in the 2012 presidential campaign, outspending any other individual or organization. He publicly advocated for the Obama administration to bomb Iran. Peter Beinart, a contributing editor at The Atlantic, said “Every Republican politician knows that Adelson conditions his checks on their Iran vote.”

Congress has 30 days from the day the deal is introduced to vote in support or opposition (or 60 days if the negotiations are delayed). To block the deal, Congress needs a veto-proof majority, which is precisely what these groups and individuals are attempting to buy.

“I’ve been around this town for about 30 years now and I’ve never seen foreign policy debate that is being so profoundly affected by the movement of hundreds of millions of dollars in the American political system,” said former six-term Congressman Jim Slattery.

Congresspeople face a dilemma: they fear a backlash by the billionaires if they vote for the deal, but most of their constituents support the deal. The pathetic irony is that the democratic move of giving Congress a say in the Iran deal (instead of leaving the administration with the authority to seal the agreement), the billionaires have a better shot at drowning out the voices of the American people.

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© 2015 Telesur

Demands in US-Iran nuclear talks as political Kabuki theatre

US-led coalition still wants inspections of Iranian military facilities it deems suspicious and interviews with Iranian nuclear scientists

By Gareth Porter

In the final phase of the negotiations with Iran, the US-led international coalition is still seeking Iran’s agreement to allow the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to visit any military facilities it deems suspicious and to interview a selected list of Iranian nuclear scientists.

Such measures are not necessary to ensure that Iran is adhering to its commitments under the agreement, but they are necessary to manage the political threat from the pro-Israel extremists in the Senate to sabotage the whole agreement.

To fend off that threat, the Obama administration made the spurious claim that it had succeeded in getting Iran to agree to the demand for IAEA inspection of any site it found suspicious. In fact, Iran had agreed only that IAEA would have “enhanced access through agreed procedures” – as reflected in the wording of the joint statement of the P5+1 and Iran on 2 April. Iran’s supreme leader Ali Khamenei and senior military officials have vehemently ruled out both IAEA inspection of military sites on demand and interviews with Iranian scientists.

IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano claimed on 12 May that Iran’s acceptance of the Additional Protocol as part of a comprehensive nuclear deal meant that Iran had accepted inspections of its military sites on demand. “In many other countries from time to time we request access to military sites when we have the reason to, so why not Iran?” Amano said. “If we have a reason to request access, we will do so, and in principle Iran has to accept it.”

But that was a brazen misrepresentation of the Additional Protocol. That agreement allows unrestricted IAEA access to sites that have already been designated previously by state as related to the nuclear fuel cycle. For all other sites, IAEA access under the Additional Protocol clearly depends on the approval of the state in question. Article 5 (c) of the agreement, provides that, if the signatory state is “unable to provide such access,” it “shall make every effort to satisfy Agency requests without delay through other means”.

Now the New York Times has further muddied the waters by reporting on 31 May that the Iranian rejection of those demands had “prompted concern that Iran might be backtracking from understandings sketched out in earlier talks”.

The Times tries to support the US demand by asserting that “experts” say “wide-ranging inspections are needed to guard against cheating”. That is a reference to the argument that opponents of a nuclear deal with Iran have been making for years that Iran is likely to try a “sneakout” route to nuclear weapons, using covert supplies of enriched uranium or plutonium and a covert enrichment facility.

The main figure to make that argument is David Albright, the founder of the Institute for Science and International Security, a Washington think tank on nuclear proliferation, who had testified on 24 March that Iran must be compelled to accept “anywhere, anytime inspections”. He argued that, without such inspections, Iran could “produce enough weapons grade uranium for a bomb while avoiding detection by the IAEA”.

Another source cited by the Times in the past for that argument is Gary Samore, who was Obama’s adviser on negotiations with Iran until early 2013. Last November, the Times quoted Samore as saying, “From the beginning, the administration thought a nuclear agreement with Iran would need elements to deal with the overt program and one to detect covert facilities.” After leaving the administration, Samore became President of the organisation called United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI), which got one-third of its funding in 2013 from Sheldon Adelson, the notorious right-wing extremist and the primary funder of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s campaigns. (more…)

The Bomb Iran Lobby Gears Up for 2016

The billionaire gambling mogul Sheldon Adelson is among those bankrolling a scare campaign against U.S. diplomacy with Iran. (Image: DonkeyHotey/flickr/cc)

A tight-knit group of neocon dead-enders is pushing Iran to the forefront of the GOP’s foreign policy agenda.

By Sina Toossi

In a recent TV ad, a van snakes its way through an American city. As the driver fiddles with the radio dial, dire warnings about the perils of a “nuclear Iran” spill out of the speaker from Senator Lindsey Graham and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The driver then steers the vehicle into a parking garage, drives to the top level, and blows it up in a blinding flash of white light. Words shimmer across the screen: “No Iran Nuclear Treaty Without Congressional Approval.”

While diplomats from Iran and the “P5+1″ world powers work to forge a peaceful resolution to the decade-long standoff over Iran’s nuclear enrichment program, a well-financed network of “experts” — like the “American Security Initiative” that produced the above “Special Delivery” ad — is dedicating enormous amounts of time and energy to weakening public support for the talks in the United States.

These think-tank gurus, special interest groups, and media pundits have peddled a plethora of alarmist narratives aimed at scuttling the diplomatic process — and they’ve relied far more on fear mongering than facts.

So who are these people?

A Close-Knit Network

Despite their bipartisan façade, these reflexively anti-Iran ideologues are in reality a tight-knit group. Many were also prominent supporters of the Iraq War and other foreign policy debacles from the last 15 years. They work in close coordination with one another and are often bankrolled by similar funders.

Four GOP super-donors alone — the billionaires Sheldon Adelson, Paul Singer, Bernard Marcus, and Seth Klarman — keep afloat an array of groups that ceaselessly advocate confrontation with Iran, like the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, the American Enterprise Institute, and the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

Other groups forming the core of this network include the neoconservative Hudson Institute and the Foreign Policy Initiative, as well as more explicitly hardline “pro-Israel” groups like the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the Republican Jewish Coalition, the Emergency Committee for Israel, The Israel Project, and the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs.

Several of these outfits also rely on right-wing grant-making foundations such as the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation and the Scaife Foundations, which together funnel millions into hardline policy shops.

Hardline Senators

Together these groups have established what amounts to their own echo chamber. They’ve built an anti-Iran communications and lobbying infrastructure that enjoys substantial influence in Washington’s corridors of power, particularly in Congress.

One of this network’s more prominent beneficiaries has been Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR), a through-and-through neocon disciple whose truculent opposition to the Iran talks has given pause to even conservative figures like Fox News’ Megyn Kelly, who asked him what the “point” was of his infamous open letter to Iran last March that was signed by 47 Senate Republicans. Other prominent senators with close ties to this network include Cotton’s Republican colleagues Lindsey Graham, Mark Kirk, Kelly Ayotte, and John McCain.

Cotton’s successful run for Senate last year came on the heels of massive financial contributions he received from key members of the anti-Iran lobby, including Bill Kristol’s Emergency Committee for Israel, which spent roughly $1 million to get Cotton elected. Adelson, Singer, and Klarman, as well as the PAC run by former UN ambassador and avowed militarist John Bolton, also contributed significantly to Cotton’s campaign.

While some pundits and politicians say they’re looking for a “better deal” with Iran than the one the Obama administration has negotiated, Cotton has explicitly said that he’s looking for no deal at all. He’s called an end to the nuclear negotiations an “intended consequence” of legislation he’s supported to impose new sanctions on Iran and give Congress an up-or-down vote on the agreement.

Think Tank Warriors (more…)