AIPAC’s Dilemma and Its Roots

Jan. 12 2017

With support for Israel increasingly becoming a partisan issue, the influence of the pro-Israel lobby AIPAC is correlatively weakening. According to Armin Rosen, the heart of the problem is the organization’s relentlessly bipartisan approach, and the real damage was done during its attempt to rally congressional opposition to the Iran deal. AIPAC’s overall strategy—based on rewarding friends but shying away from punishing enemies, and never threatening consequences for senators and representatives who take positions it opposes—severely curbed its ability to pressure legislators effectively, and ultimately exposed its frailties:

[T]he bipartisan approach that worked so well in the 1980s and early 1990s created severe problems for AIPAC under the Obama administration, which proved more willing to pressure Israel openly and to engage with its enemies than any White House in decades. AIPAC had to keep up its access to an uncooperative executive branch while sticking to its policy of only backing legislation that has bipartisan support. . . .

Multiple people who attended meetings [intended to encourage members of Congress to block the Iran deal] . . . recalled how intense some of the sit-downs . . . got. But the meetings would also include an acknowledgement that there were unlikely to be any direct consequences [to a Congressman] for supporting the deal. . . .

[Such an approach to] lobbying that’s overly determined by relationships—and thus by access—has arguably hamstrung AIPAC. It gives considerable power to the member of Congress, who can decide politely to stop listening to his or her key contacts [in the organization]. It also makes AIPAC hesitant to criticize individual members of Congress or other political figures for fear of blowing up the relationships on which the group’s influence is based. This imbalance grows over time: the longer the relationship lasts, the more the lobby has invested in it, and the more it has to lose from a rupture. . . . If there was a red line for AIPAC declaring that members of Congress were dead to them, it wasn’t crossed at any point before or after the Iran deal debate by any member.

Read more at Tablet

More about: AIPAC, Barack Obama, Donald Trump, Iran nuclear program, Israel & Zionism, U.S. Politics

In Dealing with Iran, the U.S. Must Make the Best of a Bad Deal

Jan. 23 2017

Were Donald Trump to tear up the nuclear deal with Tehran, Washington would gain little leverage while Iran would still have pocketed enormous sums of money, would continue to benefit from the lifting of international sanctions, and could continue work on its nuclear program unimpeded. Therefore, argue Emily Landau and Shimon Stein, U.S. interests would best be served by working to constrain the Islamic Republic within the parameters of the agreement:

[M]uch can be achieved simply by changing the U.S. approach to the deal and to Iran, and by altering the rhetoric. Given the strong reservations voiced by Donald Trump and his administration toward Iran, the new president should send an unequivocal message, . . . warning it against any erosion of the deal and the consequences that will follow from any violation. The next step will be to work with the [the other parties to the deal] to clear up [its] ambiguities—especially regarding inspections at suspicious military facilities and looking for unknown facilities—and set clear guidelines for responding to every type of Iranian violation.

The Trump administration should press to end the secrecy surrounding many of Iran’s nuclear activities and plans. . . . But the Trump administration must also carve out a more comprehensive approach to the Islamic Republic, taking into account the dynamics between the United States and Iran that have unfolded over the past eighteen months since the nuclear deal was presented and that underscore the absence of any convergence of interests between the two states. . . .

New policies that reflect the Trump administration’s determination to pursue an uncompromising course in dealing with Iran—both on the nuclear front and with regard to its regional behavior—could in the long run help to reduce the likelihood of an Iranian breakout, and contain Iran from further destabilizing the region in its drive to realize its hegemonic ambitions.

Read more at National Interest

More about: Donald Trump, Iran nuclear program, Politics & Current Affairs, U.S. Foreign policy