Posts

Obama’s War Against Pro-Israel Lobby Group AIPAC

In today’s edition of the New York Times is an article revealing the widening rift between President Obama and pro-Israel lobby group, AIPAC. He is angered at an affiliate  running multi-million ads against his signature foreign policy legacy, the Iran nuclear pact or JCPOA, “Fears of Lasting Rift as Obama Battles Pro-Israel Group on Iran.”

He is apparently taking this very personally as reflected in his American University speech  with references to his bête noire,  Israeli PM Netanyahu, and unnamed “lobbyists” running multi-million ads painting him as the contemporary send up to British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, appeasing Hitler at Munich in 1938.  The Times has more on the President’s contentious meeting with 20 American Jewish leaders at the White House and the extensive efforts to  brief ad answer questions to New York U.S. Senator, Charles Schumer, who ultimately came out rejecting it, unlike his upstate colleague, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand gave her commitment, although with some ostensible misgivings.  Here are some examples:

President Obama had a tough message for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or Aipac, the powerful pro-Israel group that is furiously campaigning against the Iran nuclear accord, when he met with two of its leaders at the White House this week. The president accused Aipac of spending millions of dollars in advertising against the deal and spreading false claims about it, people in the meeting recalled.

So Mr. Obama told the Aipac leaders that he intended to hit back hard.

The next day in a speech at American University, Mr. Obama denounced the deal’s opponents as “lobbyists” doling out millions of dollars to trumpet the same hawkish rhetoric that had led the United States into war with Iraq. The president never mentioned Aipac by name, but his target was unmistakable.

[…]

“It’s somewhat dangerous, because there’s a kind of a dog whistle here that some people are going to hear as ‘it’s time to go after people,’ and not just rhetorically,” said David Makovsky, a former Middle East adviser for the Obama administration and now an analyst at the Washington Institute for Near East Studies. But Aipac’s claims, he said, had been just as overheated. “There’s almost a bunker mentality on both sides.”

[…]

“This has nothing to do with anybody’s identity; this is a policy difference about the Iranian nuclear program,” said Benjamin J. Rhodes, the deputy national security adviser for strategic communications. “We don’t see this as us versus them,” Mr. Rhodes added, predicting that the White House and Aipac would work closely in the future on other matters, including Israeli security. “This is a family argument, not a permanent rupture.”

Mr. Schumer’s Courting and AIPAC’s  media war:

[AIPAC]  had sent 60 activists to Mr. Schumer’s office to lobby him last week, while Citizens for a Nuclear Free Iran, an offshoot Aipac formed to run at least $25 million in advertising against the deal, ran television spots in New York City. As Mr. Schumer deliberated, he spoke with Aipac leaders, but also with representatives of the pro-Israel group J Street, which supports the deal.

The White House courted Mr. Schumer heavily even though officials always suspected he would oppose the agreement, they said Friday. “I don’t know if the administration’s been outlobbied,” Josh Earnest, the White House press secretary, said Thursday before Mr. Schumer’s announcement. “We certainly have been outspent.”

Besides individual meetings with Mr. Obama, Secretary of State John Kerry and Wendy R. Sherman, the chief negotiator, Mr. Schumer had three hourlong meetings with members of the negotiating team, who answered 14 pages of questions from him.

Mr. Schumer hashed out further details with Mr. Kerry, Ms. Sherman and Energy Secretary Ernest J. Moniz in a recent dinner at the State Department. Mr. Obama, in the White House meeting with Aipac leaders, sharply challenged the group after one of its representatives, Lee Rosenberg, a former fund-raising bundler for Mr. Obama’s 2008 campaign, said the administration was characterizing opponents of the deal as warmongers, according to several people present, who would speak about the private meeting only on the condition of anonymity. The meeting included some 20 leaders of other Jewish organizations.

Then there was the Obama full court Press with AIPAC after his trip to Africa:

The friction between Mr. Obama and Aipac over the Iran deal has been building for months. Last week, as Mr. Obama made his way back from Africa on Air Force One, White House officials learned that Aipac would be flying 700 members from across the country to Washington to pressure their members of Congress to reject the deal. Mr. Obama’s team asked to brief the group at the White House, and was told instead to send a representative to the downtown Washington hotel where the activists were gathering before their Capitol Hill visits, according to people familiar with the private discussions.

Ms. Sherman; Adam J. Szubin, the Treasury official who handles financial sanctions; and Denis R. McDonough, the White House chief of staff, all made presentations to the group, but were barred from taking questions to further explain it. White House officials said they were told from the start there would be no questions, while Aipac supporters said that they would have allowed questions but that there was no time.

Whatever the case, Mr. Obama took offense and later complained at the White House to Aipac leaders that they had refused to allow Ms. Sherman and other members of his team to confront the “inaccuracies” being spread about the agreement, leaving him to defend the deal to wavering lawmakers who had been fed misinformation about it.

President Obama has arrogated to himself the dismissal of any and all critics of his foreign policy legacy. He has gone out of his way to criticize pro-Israel AIPAC’s affiliate, Citizens for a Nuclear Free Iran, running video ads portraying him as an appeaser in the mold of Neville Chamberlain at Munich promoting the Iran nuclear pact as cutting off the Islamic regime from obtaining a nuclear weapon for ten years.

Experts like David Albright from the Washington, DC -based Institute for Science and Technology told Congress that it is more likely less than a few months not the suggested one year at a ten year sunset in the JCPOA. Moreover there is increasing evidence that the agreement has serious flaws and is being flaunted by the Islamic Republic even before Congress votes to accept or reject in mid-September. Witness the comments of Wendy Sherman at a Senate Banking Committee hearing this week that she had only looked at drafts of the IAEA side deals. Then on the same day there was a closed door briefing by IAEA director general Akiya Amano to a bi-partisan group of Senators and Representatives during which he said they couldn’t release the confidential memos with Iran dealing investigation of prior military developments. Many Congressional members came away with a distinct impression that the so-called robust intrusive inspection regime was doubtful. At the same Banking Committee hearings, FDD’s executive director Marc Dubowitz testified that the snap back sanctions if Iran was caught cheating on a sneak out to a nuclear weapon were illusory at best.

Iran sent controversial Quds Force Commander Soleimani to Moscow to meet Russian President Putin and close ally Defense Minister Gen Shogui to speed up deliveries of the S-300 advanced air defense system violating both his travel bans and UNSC Resolution 1929 banning purchases of conventional weapons and missile technology. That was less than 10 days after the pact was announced.

Thus for President Obama to single out AIPAC as warmongering “lobbyists” in his American U speech was churlish and gratuitous set against the threats and violations by the Islamic regime. No wonder after extensive briefings and questions of the Obama negotiating team, NY Sen. Schumer, future Senate Democrat leader, came out and said he was opposed to the Iran deal.

220px-Humpty_Dumpty_Tenniel(1)This Times comment from Malcolm Hoenlein of the umbrella COPMAJO sums up the widening rift with Obama over his characterization of AIPAC and other groups opposing the Iran nuclear pact: “Words have consequences, especially when it’s authority figures saying them, and it’s not their intent, perhaps, but we know from history that they become manipulated,” said Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, repeating a concern he had raised directly with Mr. Obama during the closed-door session. “Of all political leaders,” Mr. Hoenlein added, “he certainly should be the most sensitive to this.”

That reminds us of the exchange between Alice and Humpty Dump from Lewis Carroll’s “Through the Looking Glass:”When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.””The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master— that’s all.”

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in the New English Review.

Senator Tom Cotton’s Open Challenge to Ayatollah Khamenei and President Obama on Nuclear Deal with Iran

Tall Lincolnesque Arkansas Junior Senator Tom Cotton did his constituents and all Americans proud.  His open letter to Iran’s Supreme Ruler Ayatollah Khamenei signed by 47 fellow Republican Senators was a ringing Constitutional declaration of Senate authority to review major international treaties. A rather remarkable achievement for the youngest US Senator  in the 114th Session of Congress following his electoral victory  on November 4, 2014  over incumbent Democrat Mark Pryor.  His letter put on notice the theocratic tyrant in Tehran that the US Senate had the right under Article II, Sec. 2 of our Constitution to advise and consent on treaties negotiated by the Executive branch of our government.  Moreover it put the Supreme notice that Congress has the right to vote on the lifting of any sanctions passed under existing legislation and signed into law by President Obama. Further, it basically informed Iran’s Supreme Ruler and its President that any bilateral agreement entered into by executive order by the President would be null and void upon his leaving office and the end of his second and final term.

Josh Rogin in his Bloomberg report captured the essence of this latest riposte to President Obama in the headline, “Republicans Warn Iran — and Obama — That Deal Won’t Last.”  He noted:

Organized by freshman Senator Tom Cotton and signed by the chamber’s entire party leadership as well as potential 2016 presidential contenders Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz and Rand Paul, the letter is meant not just to discourage the Iranian regime from signing a deal but also to pressure the White House into giving Congress some authority over the process.

“It has come to our attention while observing your nuclear negotiations with our government that you may not fully understand our constitutional system … Anything not approved by Congress is a mere executive agreement,” the senators wrote. “The next president could revoke such an executive agreement with the stroke of a pen and future Congresses could modify the terms of the agreement at any time.”

Arms-control advocates and supporters of the negotiations argue that the next president and the next Congress will have a hard time changing or canceling any Iran deal — — which is reportedly near done — especially if it is working reasonably well.

Cotton told Rogin:

Iran’s ayatollahs need to know before agreeing to any nuclear deal that … any unilateral executive agreement is one they accept at their own peril.

Rogin went on to note an ironic precedent by Vice President Biden;

Vice President Joe Biden similarly insisted — in a letter to then-Secretary of State Colin Powell — on congressional approval for the Moscow Treaty on strategic nuclear weapons with Russia in 2002, when he was head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

He further noted that Cotton’s letter came against the backdrop of recent review legislation:

The new letter is the latest piece of an effort by Senators in both parties to ensure that Congress will have some say if and when a deal is signed. Senators Bob Corker, Lindsey Graham, Tim Kaine and the embattled Bob Menendez have a bill pending that would mandate a Congressional review of the Iran deal, but Republicans and Democrats have been bickering over how to proceed in the face of a threatened presidential veto.

The relevant language of Article II, Sec. 2 of the Constitution reads:

[The President] shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur.

Article II, Sec. 2 of the Constitution:

Gives the Senate a share in foreign policy by requiring Senate consent, by a two-thirds vote, to any treaty before it may go into effect. The president may enter into “executive agreements” with other nations without the Senate’s consent, but if these involve more than minor matters they may prove controversial.

The emerging so-called phased P5+1 deal to forestall Iran from becoming a threshold nuclear state is anything but “minor.”  The Islamic Republic’s possession of nuclear weapons is a threat to Israel, America and the World.  In the hands of an apocalyptic Mahdist Shiite Islamic Republic nuclear weapons would foment chaos.  The chaos these madmen are eager to trigger they bizarrely believe would bring  about the rise from his slumber their moribund Messiah, the 12th Imam, from the Holy Well in the Holy city of Qom, Iran.  Just recall the first action of former Iranian President Ahmadinejad was to have his cabinet sign a letter to this effect that was deposited in that well in Qom.  Those possible Iranian nuclear weapons and the means of delivery could result in Islamic domination of the World and the possible destruction of both the reviled Great Satan (the U.S.) and Little Satan (Israel).

The reaction from Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif about the open letter to Iran’s leadership was:

In our view, this letter has no legal value and is mostly a propaganda ploy. It is very interesting that while negotiations are still in progress and while no agreement has been reached, some political pressure groups are so afraid even of the prospect of an agreement that they resort to unconventional methods, unprecedented in diplomatic history.

The Democrats in the Senate were apoplectic.  Senate minority leader Harry Reid said, “Republicans are undermining our commander in chief while empowering the ayatollahs.”  White House press Spokesman Josh Earnest said in reaction to the Republican Senate “open letter”:

Just the latest in an ongoing strategy, a partisan strategy, to undermine the president’s ability to conduct foreign policy.

President Obama said:

It’s somewhat ironic to see some members of Congress wanting to make common cause with the hard-liners in Iran.

Sen. Cotton issued this statement following Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s address before a Joint Meeting of Congress on March 3rd:

I am happy to welcome a truly courageous leader to address the Congress today.  There is no one better equipped to discuss the danger posed by a nuclear Iran than Prime Minister Netanyahu. For decades, Iran has had as its expressed goal for Israel to be ‘wiped off the face of the earth’ and has been a lead financier and arms supplier of terrorist organizations dedicated to destroying Israel. If Iran is allowed to retain their nuclear program, the United States will find itself in a similar position.

The Obama administration’s negotiations with Iran have become an endless series of concessions. Any deal reached at the end of this month will inevitably empower our enemies and put our national security at risk. It is up to Congress to stand with Prime Minister Netanyahu and Israel and restore the credible threat of force against Iran to permanently end their nuclear program.

We wrote this about Senator Cotton when he was elected on November 5, 2014:

Cotton, reading a profile of him by retired Harvard Professor Ruth Wisse in The Wall Street Journal (WSJ), had a career that resonated. He was a highly educated double Harvard graduate who voluntarily served as an Infantry officer in the US Army during the Iraq-Afghanistan conflict.  Wisse’s WSJ op-ed   was an unabashed endorsement, “Vote for Tom Cotton—and Redeem Harvard”.

[…]

Cotton is a sixth generation Arkansan from a cattle raising ranching family in the small community of Dardanelle, Arkansas. A graduate of both Harvard College and Law School, motivated by the events of 9/11, he rejected a JAG Commission. Instead, he volunteered   to go through OCS at Fort Benning and trained at both the Infantry and Ranger Schools.  Cotton served from 2005 to 2009. He had two tours, one in Iraq and a second in Afghanistan with the famed Screaming Eagles, the 101st Airborne, rising to the rank of Captain and received a Bronze Star for his combat actions. At 6’5″, he was selected as Platoon Leader at the Old Guard that provides the honor guard at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington Cemetery.

Perhaps the Senator Cotton’s open letter to Iran’s leadership was a forthright confirmation that the Republican leadership in the Congress heard PM Netanyahu’s message.  The letter represented a Constitutional challenge to the Administration asserting the Senate’s rights of review on any agreement that might be reached with Iran by March 31st that also called for lifting Congressional passed sanctions.

RELATED ARTICLE: Israel, Jews, and the Obama Administration

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in the New English Review. The featured image is of Arkansas Republican U.S. Senator Tom Cotton.