AIPAC: Anti-Iran, Interventionist, Warmongering

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The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) is an anti-Iran influence on U.S. foreign policy that cannot be ignored.

In its words, AIPAC wants to "prevent Iranian nuclear weapons capability". Yet Israel has that capability and far beyond. Israel has actual nuclear weapons.

Note the following four contrasts between Israel and Iran:

(1) Israel has not entered into the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT). Iran has been a signatory to the NPT since 1968.

(2) The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) does not inspect Israel for nuclear-related activities. It regularly inspects Iran.

(3) Israel is thought, not only to have the capability of building nuclear weapons, but to have an arsenal of nuclear bombs. Iran has no nuclear weapons. Israel has nuclear weapons of mass destruction. Iran does not.

(4) Israel threatens to attack Iran preemptively. Iran does not threaten to initiate an attack on Israel. It threatens to respond with force only if it is first attacked by Israel.

AIPAC's "prevention" position does not respect Iran's rights. AIPAC does not contest Israel's nuclear weapons of mass destruction, but it wants to violate Iran's right even to have the knowledge that it takes to build a nuclear weapon.

Has Iran given up rights by some sort of recognizable aggressive behavior with respect to Israel, such that Israel may attack Iran and claim self-defense? Not at all. Iran has not attacked Israel in any of the wars that Israel has fought since it became a state.

The closest one can come to such an attribution of Iranian aggression occurred in 2006. On the occasion of the July war in 2006 or the second Lebanon War, Foreign Ministry Deputy Director-General for Public Affairs Ambassador Gideon Meir said that Hizbullah was a party to the Government of Lebanon. He also said that it had "clear Syrian sponsorship". He also said that Iran "provides funding, weapons and directives" for Hizbullah and "For all practical purposes, Hizbullah is merely an arm of the Teheran Jihadist regime."

However, Israel didn't make an official or public case against Iran. It didn't argue that Iran had intended or instructed the war to take place, and it didn't declare war on Iran. It is not even clear that Hizbullah had the intent of starting a war at that time since there had been problems along the border for some time before the war began.

The word "capability" in AIPAC's objective is an extremely strong word. It is a much stronger limitation or restriction than to prevent development, production or acquisition. It's one thing to say someone should not possess or have a gun in hand. It's far more restrictive to say that someone should not have whatever it takes to make a gun if he wanted one.

AIPAC's position on Iran and nuclear weapons is extreme. According to AIPAC, Israel may possess the requisite knowledge and utilize it to produce weapons of mass destruction, but Iran must remain in some kind of repressed Dark Age condition with respect to nuclear technology.

The term capability means a potentiality or a mental ability. This means that AIPAC wants to make impossible that Iran have even the scientific and engineering personnel who know how to build nuclear weapons or who might learn how to build nuclear weapons. This is an unreasonable and unattainable objective without seriously infringing on Iranian rights. AIPAC wants to preclude Iranian knowledge of the processes involved in building nuclear weapons. This too is unreasonable. Since computer simulations and lab experiments develop such knowledge, AIPAC wants to rule out such scientific and engineering work. Since the manufacture of uranium-enriched fuel rods is such a step, AIPAC would also support the interdiction of Iran's peaceful nuclear energy program.

Israel, on the other hand, which has already gone through all these preliminary steps and more in developing its nuclear arsenal, stands on some kind of pedestal that gives it special rights that Iran may not have.

AIPAC intentionally has chosen its position on capability, because elsewhere it distinguishes capability from development:

"While the administration has emphasized that the United States will prevent Iran from developing or acquiring nuclear weapons, the United States must also make clear Iran will not be allowed to acquire the capability to quickly produce a nuclear weapon."

AIPAC clearly takes the side of thwarting Iranian rights. Its preferred method at this time is sanctions. AIPAC says "More Sanctions Are Needed":

"Sanctions on Iran's ports and airline are putting extreme pressure on the regime and leading to economic disruption. The Iranian energy sector is also suffering as international energy firms and financial institutions refuse to work with Iran.

"While sanctions are having an unprecedented impact on Iran, they have not yet reached the level sufficient to end the regime's nuclear weapons pursuit. The United States should impose crippling sanctions on Iran, including Iran's Central Bank."

Sanctions do not generally work. In this case, how could sanctions possibly stop the Iranians from gathering the knowledge that is their right to gather if they are determined to do so? If sanctions ever do cripple Iran, which I doubt, their incentive to go forward with nuclear development may actually increase. It need not necessarily decrease. A more deprived Iran might view nuclear weapons as a way to redress the pressures applied to them or equalize their power.

It is unlikely that sanctions will do anything but isolate Iran from the West while leading her to do barter deals with other countries and improve relations with Russia, China and other countries in Asia. It won't be long before Israel and the West are right back where they started.

What's AIPAC's position if sanctions don't work? Attack Iran:

"At the same time, the United States must make clear that all options remain on the table to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapons capability."

"All options" means the "military option" to which Washington's warmongers have lately been referring. Military option means bombing Iran. It means a preemptive armed attack on Iran.

The internet dictionary defines a warmonger as "A sovereign or political leader or activist who encourages or advocates aggression or warfare toward other nations or groups." With its coded language, AIPAC places itself in the warmonger camp.

What does the word "prevent" mean in the AIPAC lexicon? AIPAC has a memo on Iran dated Feb. 10, 2012 with the title "Iranian Nuclear Weapons Capability Unacceptable". The lead paragraph says that "The United States must make clear that Iran will not be permitted to achieve a nuclear weapons capability." Prevent is to be taken in the strongest possible sense.

Prior to the U.S. attack on Iraq, the policy of the U.S. was containment of Iraq. AIPAC does not want the U.S. to "contain" Iran:

"The United States also should not adopt a policy oriented toward containing a nuclear Iran."

The AIPAC position is as extreme as it can get. If Iran does not kneel down to Israel and the West's demands, then attack and bomb Iran in order to stop it from having any nuclear weapons capability.

The AIPAC positions discussed here are far from being academic, for Senator Joseph Lieberman, Senator Lindsey Graham and Senator Bob Casey have this month gotten 29 other senators to sign on to a resolution that contains the "capability" language. In particular, it says that the Senate

"(1) affirms that it is a vital national interest of the United States to prevent the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapons capability;"

See here for further discussion.

The close correspondence between this language and AIPAC's words is astounding. We do not know who is saying what to whom when and who is originating and propelling these political events, but we know the end result. AIPAC and a good many senators are on precisely the same page.

The proposed Senate resolution mirrors AIPAC's position (or vice versa) on containment as well. The Senate

"(6) rejects any United States policy that would rely on efforts to contain a nuclear weapons-capable Iran; and

"(7) urges the President to reaffirm the unacceptability of an Iran with nuclear-weapons capability and oppose any policy that would rely on containment as an option in response to the Iranian nuclear threat."

The resolution has a tone of frustration and anxiety with not having achieved its objectives already. It says that the Senate

"(2) warns that time is limited to prevent the Iranian government from acquiring a nuclear weapons capability;"

It repeats that the Senate

"(5) strongly supports United States policy to prevent the Iranian Government from acquiring nuclear weapons capability;"

Although AIPAC bills itself as "America's pro-Israel lobby", this is misleading because AIPAC does not speak for all Americans who are pro-Israel. AIPAC is a right-wing influence on American foreign policy in the Middle East. It supports the right wing in Israel. As such, it acts to support, encourage, continue, enlarge and firm up the interventionist and pro-Israel policies of the U.S. government in the Middle East.

Jewish Americans are not monolithic in their political views and neither are Jews in Israel. A Washington Post article in 2008 reported the formation of a left-wing Jewish lobbying group as a "counterpoint" to AIPAC. Its name is J Street. This is solid evidence from American Jews themselves that AIPAC does not speak for all Jewish Americans. That article began by saying

"Some of the country’s most prominent Jewish liberals are forming a political action committee and lobbying group aimed at dislodging what they consider the excessive hold of neoconservatives and evangelical Christians on U.S. policy toward Israel."

"Organizers said they hope those efforts, coupled with a separate lobbying group that will focus on promoting an Arab-Israeli peace settlement, will fill a void left by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC, and other Jewish groups that they contend have tilted to the right in recent years."

A leader in forming J Street, Alan Solomont, said

“The definition of what it means to be pro-Israel has come to diverge from pursuing a peace settlement. We have heard the voices of neocons, and right-of-center Jewish leaders and Christian evangelicals, and the mainstream views of the American Jewish community have not been heard.”

The article says that

"Many prominent figures in the American Jewish left, former lawmakers and U.S. government officials, and several prominent Israeli figures, as well as activists who have raised money for the Democracy Alliance and MoveOn.org, are also involved."

Not all Jews in America or in Israel identify themselves as being on the left or right. There are libertarian Jews too. An example is Walter Block who has formed the organization Jews for Ron Paul. For a blog from a freedom-loving Israeli who is sympathetic to Ron Paul and to Jews for Ron Paul, go here.

The money paid by AIPAC to U.S. legislators is listed here. A similar and more detailed list covers all money paid by all pro-Israel PACs to U.S. senators. A lot of money is spread around to a lot of legislators, with special attention on those who are on important committees. There is good theory and evidence that this substitutes for outright bribery. Some of the career totals are very large indeed:

  • Joe Lieberman at $373,851
  • Richard Durbin at $373,421
  • Mark Kirk at $336,386
  • Tom Harkin at $552,950
  • Mitch McConnell at $485,141
  • Carl Levin at $728,737
  • Max Baucus at $349,648
  • Harry Reid at $393,001
  • Frank Lautenberg at $503,578.

PAC contributions help elect candidates who support the PAC's positions. Some evidence is here.

Although I have no evidence in the specific case of AIPAC that these contributions caused or influenced these or other legislators to vote as they did, I have no doubt that money buys access to legislators, access to the drafting of laws, and influences votes. There is evidence in other instances that is historical, anecdotal and of more systematic academic origin that confirms this. Voting on the $700 billion bank bailout bill was influenced by PAC contributions from the American Bankers Association. There is strong evidence that lobbying from agricultural PACs results in higher tariffs, export subsidies and nontariff barriers. There is evidence that both PAC contributions and contributions of chief executive officers reduce the severity of enforcement penalties of the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Department of Justice. The link between Wall Street's contributions and financial regulation is well-established.

No matter what the incestuous relations are between AIPAC and U.S. legislators, AIPAC is yet another anti-Iran voice in Washington. It is an interventionist voice seeking to propel America into another war which, for Americans, is entirely unnecessary. AIPAC's voice is the voice of a warmonger.

Michael S. Rozeff [send him mail] is a retired Professor of Finance living in East Amherst, New York. He is the author of the free e-book Essays on American Empire: Liberty vs. Domination and the free e-book The U.S. Constitution and Money: Corruption and Decline.

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