Philip Weiss writes: If you want to understand the pressure that Obama is under from the Israel lobby, consider this greasy story: Last week three high Obama officials urged Senators not to pass an amendment to the huge Defense Authorization Act that would apply far stiffer sanctions to Iran’s central bank than the Obama administration wanted. Two of the officials went to the Hill, and said the amendment would send oil prices higher, among other damaging effects.
But the Senate rebuffed the administration and voted unanimously, 100-0, for the sanctions.
Why did the Senate put aside appeals from Treasury secretary Tim Geithner, under secretary of the Treasury David Cohen, and Wendy Sherman, #3 at the State Department, all saying that the bill would be bad for business and bad for the U.S.’s efforts to build a coalition on Iran? Why did John Kerry, chairman of Senate Foreign Relations, acknowledge Tim Geithner’s letter against the legislation, and then vote against his president?
The clear evidence is: because the lobby wanted this amendment and these guys feared for their political lives. AIPAC led the charge. AIPAC rolled the amendment out 3 weeks ago, and then led a letter-writing campaign to US Senators on the amendment, known as Kirk-Menendez (in part for the Senator from AIPAC, Mark Kirk of Illinois). Here’s the AIPAC memo from last month:
Time is running out to prevent Iran from obtaining sufficient quantities of higher enriched uranium to facilitate a quick breakout to produce a nuclear weapon. Together with like-minded nations, the United States must act quickly and with the full force of our remaining economic tools to prevent such a nightmare scenario.
The president should immediately designate the CBI [Central Bank of Iran] as a weapons proliferator or terror supporter under Executive Order 13224 or 13338. This designation would prohibit foreign banks with operations in the United States from conducting business with the CBI.
And AIPAC took its scalp: It promptly organized a campaign to thank the Senators for voting for the sanctions.