AIPAC Outlines Strategy to Scuttle Iran Talks

AIPAC Outlines Strategy to Scuttle Iran Talks  AIPAC Outlines Strategy to Scuttle Iran Talks

The leadership of a major pro-Israel lobby in the US publicly broke Sunday from the White House over the issue of Iran policy during the first of a three-day policy conference in Washington.

Leaders of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC, outlined a strategy moving forward to work through the US Congress to disrupt any nuclear agreement with Tehran that they deem too weak in curbing Tehran's nuclear program, the Wall Street Journal reported.

This would be achieved, they said, both by seeking to impose new sanctions on Iran and to block the White House's ability to lift standing US sanctions, which would be required as part of any comprehensive agreement.

"Congress has a critical role" in determining this deal, Howard Kohr, AIPAC's executive director, said in opening remarks. "Congress's role doesn't end when there is a deal. Congress must review this deal."

Kohr and other AIPAC leaders believe any final agreement with Iran should involve the complete dismantling of Iran's nuclear infrastructure, something Obama administration officials have said is no longer on the negotiating table.

AIPAC also is seeking to impose new sanctions on Iran if there is no agreement by a late March deadline for a framework political agreement and to legislate an up-or-down vote in Congress. The White House is opposing both legislative actions.

AIPAC's efforts to shape the Iran deal through Congress is being driven by what the organization believes has been President Barack Obama's wariness of using both financial pressure and the threat of military force to challenge Tehran.

Iran says the pressure campaign against Tehran will not compel it to yield to "excessive demands" in the talks with the P5+1 (the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany), which aim to resolve the long-running dispute over its nuclear work.  

US Secretary of State John Kerry sought to push back against Israeli criticism of the administration's Iran diplomacy. In remarks Sunday on ABC's "This Week," Kerry said, "The main goal here is to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon. And on that, Israel and the United States agree."

Iran denies the allegation that it may be seeking to develop the capability to build nuclear weapons under the cover a civilian program, saying the work is solely for peaceful purposes, such as generating electricity.

AIPAC was central in lobbying for sanctions imposed on Tehran's central bank in 2012 that were initially opposed by the White House.

Kohr and other AIPAC leaders on Sunday said the sanctions against Iran never would have been introduced without the organization's lobbying of Congress.

"Congress, time and time again, has led the effort to bring pressure on Iran," said Kohr. "The administration took ownership of this."

***Unrealistic Position

Obama sent two of his top foreign policy aides to address the AIPAC conference on Monday in an effort to soften the organization's position. They were National Security Advisor Susan Rice and Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power.

Senior US officials have said in recent days that the hard-line position pursued by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and organizations like AIPAC are unrealistic and could lead to a military conflict with Iran.

The officials were expected to argue that any agreement forged with Iran would curb Iran's ability to produce nuclear fuel and result in extensive monitoring of Tehran's nuclear infrastructure. They also were expected to say that the US unwillingness to accept a compromise deal with Tehran would lead to a splintering of the international coalition imposing the sanctions on Iran.