However, one should not expect talks to be stuck for very long. Recent news reports suggest the administration is caving on major issues at an alarming rate in the Iran negotiations. That in turn has set off a firestorm, driving mild mannered groups and individuals to lash out at the president.
The American Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) has traditionally worked with both parties. But we are in an unprecedented time of peril for Israel and for the U.S.-Israel relationship, creating new challenges for a group that has always tried to maintain bipartisanship, sometimes to the frustration of conservatives who see AIPAC as too reluctant to take on liberal opponents of the Jewish state.
AIPAC is becoming increasingly more vocal and engaging in more public education than it has in recent memory. On Wednesday, for example, it put out a statement slamming Secretary of State John Kerry’s remarks: “Last March, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General Yukiya Amano stated that his agency “needs to clarify issues” concerning past Iranian behavior if it will ever be able to certify that Iran’s nuclear program is peaceful. On June 16, Secretary of State John Kerry asserted for the first time that the U.S. was ‘not fixated’ on Iran accounting for its past nuclear weaponization efforts. According to Secretary Kerry, the U.S. already ‘knows what Iran did.’ The secretary’s statement indicates the U.S. may be backtracking from previous demands that Iran respond fully to the IAEA’s questions – raising the disturbing prospect that the anticipated agreement will be fundamentally flawed.”
The statement went on to explain, “The IAEA must understand the entire scope of Iran’s weaponization activities if it is to establish a baseline of Tehran’s nuclear program – including breakout time – against which to measure future actions. The IAEA requires access to all suspect sites, scientists, and documents. . . Iran must comply with prior commitments to the IAEA; allowing Iran to shirk them will only tempt it to defy commitments made in a new deal.” Even more tersely, it said Kerry was flat out wrong on our knowledge of past Iranian activities.
This follows a similar public statement only a few days before that rapped the administration for reported concessions on go-anywhere/anytime inspections. AIPAC is also reminding Congress of the baseline for a “good deal,” drawing on Congress’s past resolutions and legislation as well as existing United Nations resolutions.
Meanwhile, Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) — who as one foreign policy expert puts it “defines ‘moderate Republican'” and for example, declined to sign onto Sen. Tom Cotton’s letter addressed to the mullahs — on Wednesday went on Fox News to blast the administration. He told the audience:
[I]f we can negotiate a strong deal that keeps Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, that’s the best for us and for the world. But what’s happening right now…is John Kerry and his team are letting this deal erode away as they try to close it. Two of the issues that from day one have been so important are…anytime, anywhere inspections and also understanding what were the possible military dimensions of their [nuclear] program prior to 2003. . . .[Go-anywhere/anytime inspection] is a deal breaker based on what the administration has said from day one. Again, what we are beginning to hear is that the administration is weakening. They are caving to these demands. So these few remaining red lines are very important, and the one that I think people on both sides of the aisle will be concerned about is if we don’t end up having anytime, anywhere inspections. As you’ve mentioned, the Ayatollah has said that’s not going to be the case. So again, I’m just pushing to try to make sure that they [the negotiators] hold where they have been.
Reacting to Kerry’s remarks, former CIA director Michael Hayden writes, “It may be that things like knowing the history of PMDs or having the ability to conduct ‘anytime, anywhere’ inspections have been judged non-essential to a final agreement or at least that it is worth the risk. If that is true we should say so and debate that. But we shouldn’t say things we know are not true.” And if the administration is saying things that are demonstrably not true about its own past positions and statements, we should acknowledge they are trying to snookering us with a bad deal dressed up as an historic success. That means it must be rejected.
The real issue remains whether the rank and file Democrats will join these voices and back Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), who also has become increasingly irate with the administration’s fecklessness. Ultimately, it is Democratic votes that will make the difference in overriding a veto of a congressional vote of disapproval of a bad final deal with Iran.