The year-old Iranian nuclear deal has spawned a new controversy over a payment to the country after it released five Americans from prison. Now the deal, and the payment, might play a role in the battle over control over the United States Senate.
At least, Jewish Republicans hope that recent revelations about the $400 million transferred by the White House to Iran can help their keep its majority the Senate.
That’s why on Aug. 24 the Republican Jewish Coalition started collecting signatures on petitions targeting Democrats candidates for Senate in the key battlegrounds of Florida, Pennsylvania and Ohio. The idea is to pressure the Democrats who had supported the deal, in which Iran agreed to open its nuclear program to international inspections in exchange for the lifting of sanctions against it.
The coalition will try to use the petitions to induce Patrick Murphy in Florida, Katie McGinty in Pennsylvania and Ted Strickland in Ohio to speak out about what critics say was an American agreement to pay ransom to Iran in return for securing the release of five Americans held in prison there. The Obama administration and Democrats rejected this description, arguing that the piles of cashed transferred to Iran were simply a well-timed payment aimed at settling an old American debt.
While the public debate over the money paid to Iran is far from being settled, Jewish Republicans view the more recent controversy as a means to resurrect the debate over the nuclear deal itself and turn it into a campaign issue that will play to Republican candidates’s advantage.
Previous attempts to go after Democrats who backed the deal, proved largely unsuccessful but the think the new details regarding the $400 million payment might resonate in tight senatorial races.
“This $400 million ransom, along with the $100 billion Iran has already collected from the U.S., will further Iran’s funding of terrorist organizations such as Hezbollah who launch regular attacks in Israel,” the petitions stated.
The campaign has already put some candidates on the spot.
Asked about the deal, McGinty said she opposes ransom, but would not go as far as saying that the Obama administration’s actions amounted to ransom.
In New Hampshire, another state where the RJC is hoping to prove that supporting the nuclear deal is a political liability, a strongly-worded editorial in the leading local publication adopting the organization’s stand. Democrat Maggie Hassan, who is challenging incumbent Kelly Ayotte in a tight race, was taken to task Tuesday by the New Hampshire Union Leader’s editorial board. “By standing up for a crumbling Iran deal, Hassan shows that her tough talk on national security is just empty bluster.”
“If Democrat Senate candidates think voters aren’t paying attention, they’re in for a rude awakening,” said RJC spokesman Fred Brown in a press release.
The RJC, whose board is split in its approach to Donald Trump’s presidential candidacy, is focusing much of its efforts on congressional races, where all donors agree there is a need to fight a possible Democratic takeover of the Senate.
Nathan Guttman staff writer, is the Forward’s Washington bureau chief. He joined the staff in 2006 after serving for five years as Washington correspondent for the Israeli dailies Ha’aretz and The Jerusalem Post. In Israel, he was the features editor for Ha’aretz and chief editor of Channel 1 TV evening news. He was born in Canada and grew up in Israel. He is a graduate of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Contact Nathan at email@example.com, or follow him on Twitter @nathanguttman