The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) will switch tactics this week when it sends thousands of activists to lobby members of Congress, Breitbart News has learned. Instead of asking for a vote on the new Iran sanctions contained in the Kirk-Menendez bill–which would apply only if talks fail–AIPAC will tell activists to ask members of Congress to sign onto letters to the president outlining what a final deal with Iran must include.
Jeffrey Colman, AIPAC Deputy Director of Policy and Government Affairs described the new Iran letters in an on-the-record breakout session with attendees at this year’s Policy Conference.
The letters will stipulate four goals for a final agreement: that Iran dismantle its nuclear infrastructure such that it has no path to a weapon; that monitoring of Iranian nuclear facilities be increased; that the “architecture” of sanctions be retained until Iran complies completely with international demands; and that there be greater congressional oversight.
AIPAC had secured fifty-nine Senate co-sponsors of the Kirk-Menendez bill, but recently backed away from urging an immediate vote after President Barack Obama pledged to veto the bill in his State of the Union Address. That, in turn, prompted Democrats to back away from the bill. According to Colman, it was no longer certain that there would be sixty votes to push the bill through cloture, let alone to override a veto. Many
Democrats wanted to support the president in pursuing what he saw as a unique opportunity for diplomacy. A few Republicans, including Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) (AZ) and Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) (KY), also opposed pushing ahead, Colman said.
The switch to encouraging Senators and Representatives to sign a letter is expected to generate a more positive response from Congress, since a letter is merely advisory and non-binding. The hope is to increase President Barack Obama’s leverage in negotiations with Iran without moving more assertively than the administration wishes at present. The text of the Senate letter has already been drafted; the House version is still in progress.
AIPAC, which strives to maintain a bipartisan stance, has enlisted the aid of three Senators from each party to lobby their colleagues to join the effort. Leading on the Democratic side will be Sens. Chris Coons (DE), Bob Menendez (NJ), and Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) (NY). On the Republican side, the letter will be driven by Sens. Graham (SC), Kirk (IL), and Ayotte (NH). Colman said talks were ongoing with House leaders on both sides of the aisle.
While acknowledging differences with President Barack Obama about the tactics to be used in pressuring Iran, Colman said that AIPAC and the administration shared the same goal of preventing an Iranian nuclear weapon. He stressed that AIPAC would not urge the U.S. to go to war, but would encourage the administration to keep military action on the table as a credible threat to pressure Iran, alongside ongoing sanctions and diplomacy.
Anne Bayefsky, president of Human Rights Voices, was skeptical.
“Such a letter would be a giant step backwards in the effort to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. The President trashed a decade of UN Security Council resolutions prohibiting any uranium enrichment on the part of Iran, full stop. And Obama’s Iran deal negates years of diplomacy.
“Now is exactly the wrong time for those who care about both Israel’s national security and America’s to go soft. Iran is not going to be stopped by the wet-noodle approach to foreign policy.”