by James M. Wall
Sixteen Democratic U.S. Senators, including two with higher political aspirations, have joined Republican senators as co-sponsors of Senate legislation which might better be described as “the kill the Iranian nuclear pact” legislation.
The Senate bill, labeled the Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act. would impose additional sanctions against Iran, thereby destroying the carefully negotiated nuclear pact Secretary of State John Kerry has worked out with Iran.
On January 15, Chris Hayes devoted a segment of his MSNBC All In television program to a heated attack on the 16 Democratic senators who have turned away from President Obama and followed, instead, the marching orders of the Israel Lobby, led by AIPAC.
To view Hayes’ four minute segment on the 16 Democratic senators who follow AIPAC’s bidding, click here. (Not counting the ad, sorry about that, stop the video after 4:03 minutes unless you want to hear more about New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, and who needs more of that.)
Hayes is not alone in opposing “the kill the Iranian nuclear pact” Senate legislation. He provides media backing to California Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein, (above left) who spoke on the Senate floor against the Kirk-Menendez legislation.
Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein faced criticism Wednesday for comments that some thought implied a new Iran sanctions bill could put Israel in charge of U.S. foreign policy.
Feinstein objected to moving forward on a new Iran sanctions bill sponsored by 59 senators, including 16 Democrats, and co-authored by Sen Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Mark Kirk (R-IL). The California senator said the bill could imperil ongoing negotiations between Iran and the West, harm U.S. diplomatic credibility, break up the current international sanctions coalition, and allow Tehran to argue “we are interested in regime change.”
“Candidly, in my view, it is a march toward war,” she said, echoing the White House argument that senators who support the Iran sanctions bill have a secret pro-war agenda.
Feinstein took direct aim at a provision in the new bill that states, “If the Government of Israel is compelled to take military action in legitimate self-defense against Iran’s nuclear weapon program, the United States Government should stand with Israel and provide, in accordance with the law of the United States and the constitutional responsibility of Congress to authorize the use of military force, diplomatic, military, and economic support to the Government of Israel in its defense of its territory, people, and existence” Feinstein worried that this language might hamstring American foreign policy decision makers as a result.
“While I recognize and share Israel’s concern, we cannot let Israel determine when and where the United States goes to war,” she said.
In his MSNBC segment, Hayes recalls the recent history of two veteran Democratic senators who cast votes in the Senate in favor of invading Iraq. The two, Hillary Clinton and John Kerry, must cringe today when they see themselves in the Hayes report. Both have done well in their post-senatorial careers, but so far, no White House.
Booker and Gillibrand are in safe Democratic states, so their need for AIPAC’s largess and muscle is not as crucial as it could be for their 14 pro-AIPAC fellow Democrats, most of whom are in states that lean toward the Republican political brand.
A New York Times report on January 13, set the stage for the Obama-Senate struggle:
With the United States and Iran about to embark on a critical phase of nuclear talks, President Obama is waging an intense rear-guard action to prevent Senate Democrats from supporting strict new sanctions that could upend his diplomatic efforts.
Sponsors of the bill, which would aim to drive Iran’s oil exports down to zero, have secured the backing of 59 senators, putting them within striking distance of a two-thirds majority that could override Mr. Obama’s threatened veto. Republicans overwhelmingly support the bill. So far 16 Democrats have broken with the president, and the bill’s sponsors hope to get more.
The Booker-Gillibrand duo can no doubt anticipate long careers in the senate. They present themselves as Progressive Democrats. Their early media coverage supports this belief.
Here, both from the Huffington Post, are two earlier glowing reports on Booker and Gillibrand. First, Booker:
Booker, the 44-year-old Democratic former mayor of Newark, N.J., came into Congress as a rare freshman senator with celebrity status. He has been dubbed a rock star mayor by Oprah Winfrey, been called a hero for pulling a neighbor out of her burning home in 2012 and hobnobbed with Matt Damon.
And here is a Gillibrand press clip:
New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand is a smart, hardworking passionate public servant, who is focused on the difficult economic challenges that are facing New York and the country. Since joining the U.S. Senate, Kirsten has helped expand health insurance for millions of uninsured children, stood with President Obama to ensure America’s economic recovery, and secured billions of dollars to create jobs in New York and make sure New York taxpayers get their fair share.
This move to stand with AIPAC and Israel in a matter of foreign policy, has turned Progressives against both Booker and Gillibrand. The New Republic is not happy with Booker’s position on Kirk-Menendez.
The bill’s supporters insist that they’re simply trying to improve the U.S. negotiating posture. On Twitter, Booker insisted that he favors a peaceful solution, adding, “I’m 4 additional sanctions if current negotiations fail 2 start or fail 2 work.”
A senior Democratic aide told Joshua Hersh and Ryan Grim, “The goal isn’t to disrupt things, it’s to make Iran even more willing to make serious concessions by making them aware of what will happen if they don’t.”
This isn’t credible. First of all, the administration presumably has some idea of what’s best for its negotiating position, and it has been lobbying furiously against new sanctions. Second, the timing is suspect—these senators hurriedly drew up this bill only after the breakthrough in negotiations was announced. Third, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif himself said new sanctions would signal a lack of good faith that would kill any long-term agreement.
No, this bill is an attempt to kill the Iran deal, whether Booker and company admit that or not. No other explanation makes half as much sense.
Booker, Gillibrand and their 14 Democratic senate colleagues will soon have to decide whether to stand with AIPAC and support Israel’s desire to kill the Iranian nuclear deal, or will they stand with Obama.