Grassroots Jewish Groups Push for Tough Line on Iran, Despite Barack Obama's Thaw

Congress May Turn Blind Eye to Charm Offensive

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By Nathan Guttman

Published October 25, 2013.
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Even if Iran had such a right, AIPAC’s memo argued, its government’s record of violating the NPT and U.N. Security Council resolutions would still deny it this privilege.

The main piece of legislation for which Jewish groups are now lobbying is a Senate version of a tougher sanctions bill already passed by the House earlier this year. The bill would limit the ability of international financial institutions to do business with Iran even more than current sanctions do.

Statements from leading members of Congress suggest that the Jewish lobbyists will not encounter much resistance in making the case against easing sanctions, or even for increasing them. Some have also spoken out against the idea of freeing some of Iran’s frozen financial assets as a goodwill gesture.

Republican Illinois Senator Mark Kirk, a close ally of the pro-Israel lobby, went as far as describing a temporary delay in Senate discussions on a new round of sanctions as bowing to a “European appeasement policy.”

Other ideas for legislation being discussed include a call to authorize the use of military force against Iran; setting limits, via statute, on what could be conceded in any agreement between the U.S. and Iran; and even limiting by law the ability of President Obama to meet with Rowhani.

But the real challenge for the organized Jewish community is not getting members of Congress to back tough new measures against Iran. It’s the conflict with the administration still waiting ahead.

“It’s just around the corner,” said a Democratic aide, describing what could be an open battle between the White House and Congress about the future of sanctions in which the mainstream Jewish advocacy community could play a central role.

Contact Nathan Guttman at guttman@forward.com or on Twitter @nathanguttman


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