The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

No deal on sanctions freeze

A story the left-wing Haaretz that suggested that Jewish groups brought to the White House for a meeting had agreed to hold off lobbying for additional sanctions against Iran may have backfired on the Iran-friendly crowd. The story was categorically denied on the record by American Jewish Committee President David Harris. A representative of one of the groups in the meeting told Right Turn, “No such commitment was given. I can tell you that.” Interestingly, an official at another organization not present at the confab told me this afternoon, “There is no weakening at all. In fact, we’ve give the administration a very hard time behind the scenes.”

Obviously, either the administration or some other person(s) pushing appeasement with Iran would like to build momentum in favor of postponing another round of sanctions. But some things can’t be spun. Democratic senators prominent in the pro-Israel community are firmly in favor of keeping Iran’s feet to the fire. Moreover, even if — and there is no sign this would be the case — the Senate Banking Committee dragged its feet, the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, headed by the pro-sanctions chairman Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), could take up the issue. “After bending over backward to give the President the benefit of the doubt, these groups are learning that the President is willing to accept a nuclear Iran and that he’ll pull out all the stops to cut a bad deal with Iran,” a senior Senate aide with knowledge of the meeting told me. “The Ha’aretz story was nothing more than a cynical White House attempt to distract the Jewish community from its robust lobbying efforts – an attempt that failed and will only fuel the Jewish community to work harder to stop Obama from selling out western civilization.

Aside from all this public spinning, one thing is indisputable. The administration is heavily pressuring groups to give up on sanctions bills, no doubt because it fears Iran might get upset and — mercy me! — leave the talks that are supposed to save the administration from the Hobson’s choice of its own making — a nuclear armed Iran or a military strike. That, not congressional weakness, is what should concern the pro-Israel community and all Americans who have heard the president time and again say he would use sanctions to force Iran to give up its weapons program. Now we’ve learned the president doesn’t always mean what he says, but in this case, outside groups, Republican and Democratic senators and the Israeli officials are going to insist that America keeps its sanctions. In fact, in all likelihood, more will be coming soon.