AIPAC Pushes Tough Line on Iran as Nuclear Thaw Picks Up Pace

Will Abortive Syria Battle Affect Lobby's Effort?

Charmer? AIPAC plans to push back hard in the face of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s charm offensive. Will the group’s stumble on Syria affect its new effort?
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Charmer? AIPAC plans to push back hard in the face of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s charm offensive. Will the group’s stumble on Syria affect its new effort?

By Nathan Guttman

Published September 27, 2013, issue of October 04, 2013.
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A House staff member, whose office was courted by AIPAC activists on the issue of Iran, affirmed this view. The lobby’s Syria advocacy, he said, was seen as “part of a massive effort led by the President” and not an issue in which pro-Israel activists were acting on their own behalf.

Iran has long maintained its program is for peaceful purposes only. In a series of remarks and interviews, Rowhani announced that his country is not interested in obtaining a nuclear weapon and pledged it would never do so. He expressed his willingness to engage with the United States and the international community on the issue with “heroic flexibility.”

While top Iranian officials have offered similar statements in the past, the tone of Rowhani’s comments and the stress he and other newly installed leaders in his government have put on speaking directly to an American audience stand in stark contrast to the acerbic rhetoric of his predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Jeffrey Feltman, a former top State Department official who now serves as the United Nations under secretary general for political affairs, added diplomatic weight to this sense of change in Iran, describing his meetings with the new leadership in Tehran as being “180 degrees from a year ago.” He credited the Iranians with “trying to engage constructively with the international community.”

Israeli officials and mainstream pro-Israel activists in Washington dissent from this view strenuously. So far, they stress, nothing has changed on the ground. The embassy staff of the outgoing Israeli ambassador, Michael Oren, even posted a fake LinkedIn page, supposedly composed by Rowhani, in which the purported president describes himself as an “Expert Salesman, PR Professional, Nuclear Proliferation Advocate.”

“Through a series of statements, tweets, op-eds and smiles, I have rebranded the human-rights-suppressing, Ayatollah-led regime as moderate,” the fake Rowhani said.

“There’s a lot of spin coming out of Iran right now,” Oren told NPR, “but the centrifuges continue to spin in Tehran, enriching uranium.”

Rowhani’s September 24 address to the U.N. General Assembly, in which he reaffirmed Iran’s right to enrich uranium for peaceful purposes under the Nuclear Proliferation Treaty, failed to win over Jewish groups. Soon after his speech, the Anti-Defamation League described it as falling “well short of addressing in any serious way the harsh reality of Iran’s decades-long quest for nuclear weapons.”

Officials close to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he intends to warn the world against a possible Iranian trap when he addresses the United Nations on October 1, one similar to that set by North Korea, which has negotiated multiple nuclear agreements but has never given up its program.


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