Debbie Wasserman Schultz Squeezed Hard as Iran Sanctions Fight Heats Up

Florida Democrat Caught Between Obama and Jewish Leaders

Divided Loyalty: Debbie Wasserman Schultz is a strong supporter of Israel and its agenda. But she is also the head of the Democratic National Committee — and was put there by President Obama.
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Divided Loyalty: Debbie Wasserman Schultz is a strong supporter of Israel and its agenda. But she is also the head of the Democratic National Committee — and was put there by President Obama.

By Nathan Guttman

Published January 21, 2014.
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“She is concerned about the criticism because she is a supporter of sanctions,” said Adler, whose own stand may reflect divisions on AIPAC’s approach even within the lobby. He described those in the pro-Israel community who criticized the congresswoman as being “so wrapped up in their own belief that they can’t recognize there are good pro-Israel people on both sides of this discussion.”

But it is that ability to be counted as “pro-Israel” on either side of this issue that is vexing activists who want to force congressional lawmakers to choose.

Right now, the Senate’s Nuclear Weapons Free Iran Act has 59 co-sponsors in the Senate, one vote shy of the number needed to force a vote, and far from the 67 senators required to override a presidential veto — a veto Obama has promised if the measure passes both houses. The bill calls for imposing new, automatic sanctions on Iran if it does not live up to a recently signed interim agreement that imposes new limits on the country’s nuclear program, which many other countries fear has as its goal the development of nuclear weapons. (Iran says its program is only for non-military purposes.)

Iran, which is currently negotiating with several countries, including the United States, to reach a stronger, permanent nuclear accord, would also suffer new sanctions under the bill if it did not cease all enrichment of uranium for this program after the interim agreement’s six-month term expires — even if the final agreement allowed it to enrich uranium to a low level, as many expect.

Another provision promises U.S. support for Israel if Israel, which views a nuclear Iran as an existential threat, decides to attack Iran to block its nuclear advancement.

Iran has threatened to walk out of the current talks if the Senate bill passes. And the administration, which sees the bill’s language as contrary to its own negotiating goals, has used the harshest of terms to describe the damage the bill could cause. Its passage, said White House Jay Carney could lead to “a march to war” as the only alternative to collapsed talks.

But proponents of more economic sanctions say it is only the pressure from earlier sanctions that has brought Iran to the negotiating table, and the threat of further sanction that will ensure the negotiations’ success. AIPAC has made passage of the new sanctions a top priority and has been lobbying in full force for its passage.


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