The Genius Of AIPAC’s Strategy

Iran Opinion

From this new poll, it appears Americans support both the agreement with Iran and exactly the sort of provisions that would derail it:

By 58% to 25%, Americans approve of the current international agreement that would freeze Iranian nuclear development in return for the easing of sanctions.  But more than half think the best way to get Iran to limit its nuclear program is to threaten it with consequences – either military or economic – if Iran does not limit its nuclear program.

This is the genius behind AIPAC’s bill to kill in advance any deal with Iran. For those who do not read the actual bill, or have a sketchy memory of the last five years, it seems perfectly rational to increase sanctions until Iran cries uncle. The polling question that got the result above was a non-time-related: “What strategy should the US employ to get Iran to limit its nuclear program?”

But that has been the policy and it brought Iran to the negotiating table. Americans are right about that principle. But there comes a point at which the sanctions have worked and we have the result we said we were looking for: a frozen program and a negotiation. The question now is: would moving the goalposts after we have gotten them to the negotiating table and have already frozen their nuclear program’s advance, help get a solid deal? If you unpack it that way – and it is the only honest way to unpack it – you see how shrewdly duplicitous AIPAC’s strategy is.

And, of course, AIPAC’s bill would not just threaten new sanctions; it has several provisions that open up past actions of Iran to new sanctions; and it raises many broader questions about Iran’s regional power apart from the nuclear issue. In every case, as Edward Levine has definitively shown, moving the goalposts in such a way now would easily wreck the possibility of any deal at all.

Mercifully, the AIPAC bill seems to be on hold for now. But AIPAC’s fanaticism on this should not be under-estimated. They are determined to get a new war against Iran, however they can, and you can see that when you read the actual bill. For example, take the poll’s finding on what should happen if the talks were to fail, as AIPAC wants:


You’ll see that a majority is against the US starting a new war in the Middle East (although it’s disturbingly small), although they would not disapprove of Israel’s taking unilateral action. But the new sanctions bill would solder Israel’s war with America’s in advance, and commit the United States to a pre-emptive war if Israel were to decide to launch one. Here’s the key paragraph 2 (b) (5):

It is the sense of Congress that — if the Government of Israel is compelled to take military action in legitimate self-defense against Iran’s nuclear weapon program, the United States Government should stand with Israel and provide, in accordance with the law of the United States and the constitutional responsibility of Congress to authorize the use of military force, diplomatic, military, and economic support to the Government of Israel in its defense of its territory, people, and existence;

Notice the key word “military support” in that instance. AIPAC, it seems to me, is trying to get the US Senate on record now not only to derail any chance of a negotiated settlement but to back any future pre-emptive war by Israel to damage Iran’s nuclear infrastructure. The phrase “legitimate self-defense” is difficult to parse, I’ll grant you. But when one country (Israel) already has a huge nuclear arsenal outside the Non-Proliferation Treaty, and one (Iran) has none, and the country with the nukes attacks the country without them, “legitimate self-defense” is an absurd construction. What the AIPAC bill does is therefore effectively delegate the American president’s and Senate’s deliberation on war and peace to a foreign government. In advance. It effectively makes Israel the arbiter of America’s fate in the world.

I believe that the American people care (rightly) about Israel’s security and survival. But I do not believe that they want the US to contract out its foreign policy – especially in a crucial area of war and peace – to any country other than their own.