AIPAC from the inside — Part 1: isolating Iran

Robert Dreyfuss writes:

In August 2005, two lobbyists with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), Steve Rosen and Keith Weissman, were indicted on charges of illegally conspiring to collect and disseminate classified secrets to journalists and to Israeli diplomats. The case, in which the two men were charged under a World War I-era espionage law along with Larry Franklin, a midlevel Iran analyst at the Department of Defense, was intimately linked to efforts by the AIPAC officials and others to improperly influence U.S. policy toward Iran, said prosecutors, and it caused a political firestorm in Washington. However, in 2009, the case fell apart, and the Justice Department withdrew all charges.

Now, for the first time, one of the two AIPAC officials, Keith Weissman, is speaking out. In a series of extended interviews with Tehran Bureau, Weissman tells his story. He’s come forward, he says, because he’s concerned that if a confrontation between the United States, Israel, and Iran leads to war, it will be a disaster — one that Weissman fears will be blamed on the American Jews.

“The reason why I want to tell this story now is, we may be going down a path, helped along by the American Jewish community, and maybe even Israel, that is going to be worse even than the one we’re on now – some sort of military confrontation with Iran. That worries me. Because they will be able to blame [it] on the Jews, to a great extent,” says Weissman, who worked at AIPAC from 1993 until 2005, much of that time as the group’s deputy director of foreign policy. Though Weissman disagrees sharply with those who say that AIPAC played a critical role in pushing for the 2003 U.S. decision to invade Iraq, he believes a war with Iran — which he says “would be the stupidest thing I ever heard of” — might well be blamed on AIPAC’s leaders and their constituents. “What the Jews’ war will be is Iran,” he says. “Not Iraq.”

Although Weissman’s comments might seem startling to those who don’t know him, they’re part and parcel of who he is, he says. From his days in college at the University of Chicago in the late 1970s, Weissman was in sympathy with a wide range of progressive causes, and, unusually for a man who’d end up working at AIPAC, he sported a “Free Palestine” bumper sticker on his car back then. (Last month, at a conference held by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, a think tank founded with support from AIPAC, I mentioned to Steve Rosen that I’d talked to Weissman. “Of course!” replied Rosen, who knows that I usually write for progressive publications. “He thinks just like you do!”) During much of his tenure at AIPAC, Weissman served as a kind of unofficial liaison to various Palestinian officials, diplomats, and academics. Later, when he became AIPAC’s chief Iran specialist, he insists that he quietly did what he could to steer the group away from direct calls for regime change in Iran, even though AIPAC was working hard to push the United States into ever stronger action against the Islamic Republic, including diplomatic isolation and tough sanctions to dissuade Iran from pursuing its nuclear program and supporting Hamas, Hezbollah, and other anti-Israel groups. [Continue reading…]

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