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Wright reports: "Late last week, amid little fanfare, Senators Joseph Lieberman, Lindsey Graham, and Robert Casey introduced a resolution that would move America further down the path toward war with Iran."

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu address AIPAC at its annual conference, 05/23/11. (photo: Jason Reed/Reuters)
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu address AIPAC at its annual conference, 05/23/11. (photo: Jason Reed/Reuters)

AIPAC and the Push Toward War

By Robert Wright, The Atlantic

22 February 12


ate last week, amid little fanfare, Senators Joseph Lieberman, Lindsey Graham, and Robert Casey introduced a resolution that would move America further down the path toward war with Iran.

The good news is that the resolution hasn't been universally embraced in the Senate. As Ron Kampeas of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency reports, the resolution has "provoked jitters among Democrats anxious over the specter of war." The bad news is that, as Kampeas also reports, "AIPAC is expected to make the resolution an 'ask' in three weeks when up to 10,000 activists culminate its annual conference with a day of Capitol Hill lobbying."

In standard media accounts, the resolution is being described as an attempt to move the "red line" - the line that, if crossed by Iran, could trigger a US military strike. The Obama administration has said that what's unacceptable is for Iran to develop a nuclear weapon. This resolution speaks instead of a "nuclear weapons capability." In other words, Iran shouldn't be allowed to get to a point where, should it decide to produce a nuclear weapon, it would have the wherewithal to do so.

By itself this language is meaninglessly vague. Does "capability" mean the ability to produce a bomb within two months? Two years? If two years is the standard, Iran has probably crossed the red line already. (So should we start bombing now?) Indeed, by the two-year standard, Iran might well be over the red line even after a bombing campaign - which would at most be a temporary setback, and would remove any doubt among Iran's leaders as to whether to build nuclear weapons, and whether to make its nuclear program impervious to future American and Israeli bombs. What do we do then? Invade?

In other words, if interpreted expansively, the "nuclear weapons capability" threshold is a recipe not just for war, but for ongoing war - war that wouldn't ultimately prevent the building of a nuclear weapon without putting boots on the ground. And it turns out that the authors of this resolution want "nuclear weapons capability" interpreted very expansively.

The key is in the way the resolution deals with the question of whether Iran should be allowed to enrich uranium, as it's been doing for some time now. The resolution defines as an American goal "the full and sustained suspension" of uranium enrichment by Iran. In case you're wondering what the resolution's prime movers mean by that: In a letter sent to the White House on the same day the resolution was introduced, Lieberman, Graham and ten other senators wrote, "We would strongly oppose any proposal that recognizes a 'right to enrichment' by the current regime or for [sic] a diplomatic endgame in which Iran is permitted to continue enrichment on its territory in any form."

This notwithstanding the fact that 1) enrichment is allowed under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty; (2) a sufficiently intrusive monitoring system can verify that enrichment is for peaceful purposes; (3) Iran's right to enrich its own uranium is an issue of strong national pride. In a poll published in 2010, after sanctions had already started to bite, 86 percent of Iranians said Iran should not "give up its nuclear activities regardless of the circumstances." And this wasn't about building a bomb; most Iranians said Iran's nuclear activities shouldn't include producing weapons.

Even Dennis Ross - who has rarely, in his long career as a Mideast diplomat, left much daylight between his positions and AIPAC's, and who once categorically opposed Iranian enrichment - now realizes that a diplomatic solution may have to include enrichment. Last week in a New York Times op-ed, he said that, contrary to pessimistic assessments, it may still be possible to get a deal that "uses intrusive inspections and denies or limits uranium enrichment [emphasis added]..."

The resolution plays down its departure from current policy by claiming that there have been "multiple" UN resolutions since 2006 demanding the "sustained" suspension of uranium. But the UN resolutions don't actually use that term. The UN has demanded suspension as a confidence-building measure that could then lead to, as one resolution puts it, a "negotiated solution that guarantees Iran's nuclear program is for exclusively peaceful purposes." And various Security Council members who voted on these resolutions have made it clear that Iranian enrichment of uranium can be part of this scenario if Iran agrees to sufficiently tight monitoring.

Indeed, that Iran's right to enrich uranium could be recognized under those circumstances is, Hillary Clinton has said, "the position of the international community, along with the United States." If the Lieberman-Graham-Casey resolution guides US policy, says George Perkovich of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, that would "preclude" fulfillment of the UN resolutions and isolate the US from the international coalition that backed them.

The Congressional resolution goes beyond the UN resolutions in another sense. It demands an end to Iran's ballistic missile program. Greg Thielmann of the Arms Control Association notes that, "Even after crushing Iraq in the first Gulf War, the international coalition only imposed a 150-kilometer range ceiling on Saddam's ballistic missiles. A demand to eliminate all ballistic missiles would be unprecedented in the modern era - removing any doubt among Iranians that the United States was interested in nothing less than the total subjugation of the country."

On the brighter side: Maybe it's a good sign that getting significant Democratic buy-in for this resolution took some strong-arming. According to Lara Friedman of Americans for Peace Now, the resolution got 15 Democratic supporters only "after days of intense AIPAC lobbying, particularly of what some consider 'vulnerable' Democrats (vulnerable in terms of being in races where their pro-Israel credentials are being challenged by the candidate running against them)." What's more, even as AIPAC was playing this hardball, the bill's sponsors still had to tone down some particularly threatening language in the resolution.

But, even so, the resolution defines keeping Iran from getting a nuclear weapons "capability" as being in America's "vital national interest," which is generally taken as synonymous with "worth war." And, though this "sense of Congress" resolution is nonbinding, AIPAC will probably seek unanimous Senate consent, which puts pressure on a president. Friedman says this "risks sending a message that Congress supports war and opposes a realistic negotiated solution or any de facto solution short of stripping Iran of even a peaceful nuclear capacity."

What's more, says Friedman, the non-binding status may be temporary. "Often AIPAC-backed Congressional initiatives start as non-binding language (in a resolution or a letter) and then show up in binding legislation. Once members of Congress have already signed on to a policy in non-binding form, it is much harder for them to oppose it when it shows up later in a bill that, if passed, will have the full force of law."

No wonder Democrats who worry about war have the "jitters." your social media marketing partner


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+52 # WFO 2012-02-22 16:28
"AIPAC is expected to make the resolution an 'ask' in three weeks when up to 10,000 activists culminate its annual conference with a day of Capitol Hill lobbying."

Just say hell no! This AIPAC foreign lobby has a death grip on the United States Of Israel's Executive and Legislative branches (I'm sure Judicial also).

We have got to break this AIPAC grip if we are ever to have peace or freedom. These people are fuking nuts!
+10 # wsh 2012-02-23 08:56
Doesn't this policy go both ways? If we set a policy to bomb any Mid-East nation we SUSPECT of having nuclear arms capability, and is threatening to it's neighbors....

How about we force Israel to open up their nuclear "capabilities" to U.N. inspection?
+1 # barbaratodish 2012-02-22 21:45
We need the UN to be an arbiter of interpretation. For instance if a leader interprets THEIR nations' policies like Israel does, namely egotistically and dramatically, i.e., that X Y Z, blah, blah, blah, is an existential threat, etc., and if it can be shown that such a claim or threat is a relative threat instead of an absolute, immanent (i.e, instrumental means and actual actions taken, etc.,) then either the leader is replaced, or their nation status is relegated (demoted) to a pre-nation state! That nation can keep its drama and ego. The citizens that want drama and ego can stay there or leave, and others can flock to the state if they want drama and ego. Eventually we will have a world with redistributed citizens, the dramatic and the egotistical will be dramatically and egotistically represented with policies that call for ego and drama. All these countries will dramatically and egotistically war with each other, killing themselves dramatically and egotistically. The rest of the world will be in liberated utopias!
+22 # CandH 2012-02-22 22:42
So, wait, AIPC is calling the shots in the US Senate starting a war on IR, and no yet, for IS, a different country, purposes? Um, how many "IS Firsters" are their in the Senate? The MSM? The entire US? Wait, is the "US empire dying" meme actually mean that we're actually now a puppet of IS? Did US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey get that memo?

"Prime Minister Netanyahu, who in the past has called for expulsion of Palestinians from their West Bank home and boasted of derailing the 1993 Oslo Peace Accords, accused Dempsey of "serving Iranian interests," (per and apparently, not his puppet-master, IS.
+9 # Capn Canard 2012-02-23 08:34
AIPAC is a bunch of charlatans who have only one master they are advocating for and that is a Zionist state of Israel, no Palestinians allowed in Palestine. It has always been the Zionist fantasy to remove all non Jews from Palestine, er now called Israel, and the Western powers have let them run rough shod over the best interests of all those Americans who may, or may not, be in favor of more war or creating dangerous tensions in lands that are kind of important to our economic and political viability. Id est, this is about keeping Israel strong despite any negative effects it may have on Americans. You can only push so far before the people revolt and I am done supporting Israel in anything they may want. What they need is a completely different issue.
+1 # MylesJ 2012-02-23 13:24
As Colbert says, "the problem with the world is people who are not me". In that world, nothing suffices except the elimination of all people who are not me.
+15 # XXMD48 2012-02-22 23:19
If Israel would put same amount of brain power, diplomatic skills and financial investment in an effort to make peace with its enemies, the world would be a better place. Instead the country leading politicians are using half of the brain power to maintain their enemies and half of the brain power to manipulate US Senate and House of representatives to achieve their political agenda and to satisfy AIPAC and their economic allies in war profiteering. When will the USA free itself from the enormous and detrimental influence of Israel in the US politics? It is the American people who pay dearly for this misfit by paying for the wars.
Joe Lieberman, Lindsey Graham and Robert Casey should be suspended from their positions and prosecuted as war criminals for building the war with Iran.
+16 # AlWight 2012-02-23 00:00
Joeseph Lieberman's loyalties are more to Israel hard liners than to the U.S. AIPAC represents their interests, not those of the U.S. Anyone in Washingto who votes to support this proposal should be voted out of office or impeached. We cannot afford another war, and whose lives do these people want to sacrifice to fight this one?
+17 # Patriot 2012-02-23 00:35
What on earth do we want with ANOTHER war?

We're still involved in Iraq, we're in over our heads in Afghanistan, and the Iranis are not a people to roll over and play dead. Indeed, the more we huff and puff, the more they will reinforce their defenses, and the more likely they are to contemplate their options for offense.

What could ANYONE, and especially us, gain by such folly? Control of Iran's oil? In a pig's eye! The oilfield fires we saw in Iraq would be weenie roasts in comparison; Iran will NEVER surrender to us or anyone else.

Somebody, please read some history and learn something from the reading!
+5 # Capn Canard 2012-02-23 19:58
Quoting Patriot:
What on earth do we want with ANOTHER war?
Somebody, please read some history and learn something from the reading!

Patriot, I suggest that you pass along your request to a historian like Newt Gingrich who it is rumored to be an historian... though any solid evidence of his intelligence is lost on those who are well read. The only people he seems capable of impressing appear to be ignorant.
+8 # seeuingoa 2012-02-23 00:39
Don´t forget the symbolism of the
Israelian flag.
The two blue lines, above and below
the Star of David, being the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River.
The Zionist dream of one big Israel
with no place for others in between.
+14 # angelfish 2012-02-23 00:40
Until Lindsey Graham, Joe Lieberman and Robert Casey are prepared to put THEIR sorry, old A**es on the line or those of a son or daughter or other close loved one, their War Mongering has GOT to stop! Haven't they had ENOUGH bloodshed and misery? I guess not because THEY haven't shed any blood! Americans cannot afford another War! Neither can the Middle East. If Israel wants a War, let THEM fight it! How sad that they've turned into the Nazis they once hated! There is NO reason on God's good Earth WHY the Jews and the Arabs can't find a solution to their problems. They need to learn a new word. COMPROMISE.
+12 # infohiway 2012-02-23 00:47
Here' a plan.
Why not just parachute every idiot that wants to attack Iran INTO IRAN so those gung-hos and bozos can be martyrs?
Better yet, make a law demanding they must be the FIRST to in in.
No takers?
Thought so.

+3 # infohiway 2012-02-23 02:15
From 1246 to 9/11 to 2012:
1. They simply do not know when (nor how) to quit - even when they are miles AND billion$ ahead.
2. Given enough rope, they'll either hang themselves ... or everybody else first?
3. Ask Judge Napolitano and Murdoch...
+12 # 666 2012-02-23 05:55
AIPAC is a terrorist organization; we should ship ALL these f---ers to gitmo and let them share cells with al-qaeda ops.
+15 # walt 2012-02-23 06:58
If anyone feels their representatives in Congress don't represent them, this may be a good explanation as to why. Their loyalties are quite divided, and not evenly either.

Sit back and watch now as the controlled media whips the country into a frenzy to attack Iran!

What an outrage!
+16 # MidwestTom 2012-02-23 07:12
AIPAC is powerful enough that about a decade ago they got themselves removed from the classification of Political Action Committee, so they do not have make public how much they donate to each politician. Until we exclude persons holding duel citizenship from high offices, our soldiers will be doing Israel's bidding. Obama, get our troops out of Israel!
+14 # RMDC 2012-02-23 07:55
A war of aggression is a crime -- the worst crime that can be committed according to the Nuremberg Principles because it unleashed all other crimes such as crimes against humanity. The Israelis and thier puppets in the Senate are planning a huge war crime. That's all there is to it.

Why can't everyone see that the aggressor here is Israel and not Iran. Israel is threatening Iran with war. It is too chicken to do the war alone and is trying to bully the US into fighting the war for it. The US regime is too cowardly to tell the Israelis that they will never participate in a war of aggression against a sovereign nation that is not threatening anyone.

If the war does not happen before the November elections, it would be nice to think that the election would be a referendum on Israel's control of US foreign policy in the middle east. But it won't be. Americans will never have control of thier government. AIPAC has the control and they are not giving it up for any reason.
+9 # ojkelly 2012-02-23 09:29
where is AIPAC former PR flack Wolf Bltzer on this? Is there a red line between Americaninteres ts/Israili settler interests/and Senatorial reelection interests?
Adm. Wiliam Fallon was out as head of the Southern Command 6 months after saying there would be no attack on Iran on his watch. Dempsey better "watch" out.
+8 # reiverpacific 2012-02-23 11:21
Chicken-hawks every one of 'em, who need to be exposed and fired for treason and betrayal!
"Terrible Hell be upon their spotted souls for this!" (Richard 11).
+7 # MainStreetMentor 2012-02-23 14:26
More American service personnel will be slated to sacrifice their lives in the name of corporate profits and the greedy avarice of the military/indust rial complex, unless we citizens become actively, aggressively involved in stopping the insanity of more armed conflict. Words may do it - but they must be applied via legisilative efforts and the ballot box.
+5 # ericlipps 2012-02-24 09:11
Does "capability" mean the ability to produce a bomb within two months? Two years? If two years is the standard, Iran has probably crossed the red line already. (So should we start bombing now?) Indeed, by the two-year standard, Iran might well be over the red line even after a bombing campaign.
The dirty secret here is that Israel would prefer that its neioghbors be restricted forever to a pre-1945, and if possible a pre-1845, level of technology in general (except for whatever might be needed to efficiently extract oil), which would make them militarily helpless against the Israeli armed forces.

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