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The Israel Lobby and US - Iran Foreign Policy

By Akbar Nourozi


This article is an abstract from an academic paper by the professors John J Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago and Stephen M Walt of Harvard University which has been turned into an essay by Michael Massing. The article shed some light on how American Israel Public Affair Committee tries to influence the government foreign policies and public opinion in United States. Here a section of the article that deasl with the activities related to Iran has been presented. It is obvious that what happened in Iraq and is now happening in Lebanon and what is planed for Iran is part of a grand vision of Israel on how the political map   of Middle East should look like.  Time would tell to what degree a long lasting peace can be achieved without addressing the root causes of instabilities and lack of a fair settlement. 


Any discussion of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s (AIPAC) activities must begin with the policy conference it sponsors each year in Washington, a combination of trade show, party convention and Hollywood extravaganza that seems designed to show AIPAC’s national power. On Sunday, March 5, 2006, the start of this year’s gathering, 5000 pro-Israel activities from across the US crowded into the Washington Convention Centre. Over the next three days, they listened to speeches, sat in panels, chatted at reception and attended a book signing by Nathan Sharansky.


The conference ended the next day with a speech by Dick Cheney. The vice-president used the occasion to deliver administration’s sternest warning yet to the government of Iran, promising that it would face “meaningful consequences” if it continued to pursue nuclear technology. “We join other nations in sending that regime a clear message:  We will not allow Iran to have a nuclear weapon, “Cheney declared to loud applause. For the AIPAC faithful, Cheney ranks as a true America hero.


AIPAC claims to represent most of the Jewish community. Its executive committee has a couple of hundred members representing a wide spectrum of American Jewish opinion, from the dovish American for Peace Now to the military right wing Zionist Organization of America. Four times a year this group meets to decide AIPAC policy. The executive committee has little power. Rather, power rests with 50-odd-memebrs board of directors, which is selected not according to how well they represent AIPAC’s members but according to how much money they give and raise. Within the board itself, power is concentrated in an extremely rich subgroup, known as the “minyan club”. And, within that group, four members are dominant: Robert Asher, a retired lighting fixtures dealer in Chicago; Edward Levy, a building supplies executive in Detroit; Mayer “Bubba” Mitchell, a construction materials dealer in Mobile, Alabama; and Larry Weinberg, a real estate developer in Los Angeles (and a former owner of the Portland Trail Blazers). Asher, Levy and Mitchell are loyal Republicans; Weinberg is a Scoop Jackson Democrat who has moved rightward over the years.


The “Gang of Four”, as these men are known, do share the general interest of a large part of the Jewish community, they seek to keep Israel strong, the Palestinians weak and stop the US from exerting pressure on Israel.


AIPAC’s defenders like to argue that its success is explained by its ability to exploit the organizing opportunities available in democratic America. To some extent, this is true. AIPAC has a formidable network of supporter throughout the US. Its 100,000 members – up 60 per cent from five years ago – are guided by AIPAC’s nine regional offices, its 10 satellite offices and its 100-person plus Washington staff, a highly professional group that includes lobbyists, researchers, analysts, organizers and publicists, backed by an enormous $US47 million annual budget. AIPAC’s staff is famous on Capitol Hill for its skill in gathering up-to-the minute information on Middle Eastern affairs and working it up into neatly digestible and carefully slanted policy packages, on which many congressional staffers have come to rely.


Such an account, however, overlooks a key element in AIPAC itself is not a political action committee. Rather, by assessing voting records and public statements, it provides information to such committees, which donate money to candidates; AIPAC helps them to decide who Israel’s friends are according to AIPAC’s criteria. The Centre for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan group that analyses political contributions, list a total of 36 pro-Israel PACs, which together contributed $US3.14 million to candidates in the 2004 election cycle. Pro-Israel donors give many millions more. Over the past five years, for instance, Robert Asher, together with his various relatives (a common device used to maximize contributions) has donated $US148, 000, mostly in sums of $US1000 of $2000 to individual candidates.


What AIPAC wants can be summed up very succinctly: a powerful Israel free to occupy the territory it chooses; enfeebled Palestinians; and unquestioning support for Israel by the US. AIPAC is skeptical of negotiations and peace accords, along with the efforts by Israeli doves, the Palestinians and Americans to promote them.


But if Israel did manage to withdraw behind a security fence and allowed such a state to emerge, what would AIPAC have left to do? Plenty. While pursing its traditional concerns about Israel, the lobby in recent years has been steadily expanding its mission, becoming a strong force in the extended network of national security groups and leaders who have used September 11, the war on terrorism and Israel as a basis for seeking a more aggressive US stance in the world.


This is especially apparent in AIPAC’s work on Iran. Since the mid 1990s, AIPAC has been devoting much of its energy to warning against Iran’s development of nuclear weapons, to denouncing the mullahs in Tehran, and to seeking their overthrow. Mearsheimer and Walt place much emphasis on the lobby’s support for war in Iraq, but AIPAC’s work on Iran has had far more impact in Washington (assisted as it is by the aggressive rhetoric and actions of President Ahmadinejad). The network with which AIPAC is associated, it should be said, does not constitute any sort of conspiracy or cabal; its various parts and members work independently and often take positions at odds with one another as they agitate for a more muscular US pressure in the Middle East and beyond.


One key part of the network is the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. AIPAC helped to create this think tank in 1985, with Martin Indyk, AIPAC’s research director, becoming its first director. Today, the Washington Institute is fully independent of AIPAC, and there is some diversity among its fellows (Dennis Ross is one). Overall though, its policies mirror AIPAC’s. Its executive director, Robert Satloff, is a neoconservative with very hawkish views on the Middle East. Its deputy director of research, Patrick Clawson, has been a leading of regime change in Iran and of a US confrontation with Tehran over its nuclear program. (AIPAC features him as an expert on its website.) Raymond Tanter, an adjunct scholar at the institute, has been championing the MEK or People’s Mujahedin, a shadowy group of Iranian guerrillas who want to overthrow the government in Tehran (and whom US State Department regards as terrorist). Members of the Washington Institute’s board of advisers include Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, James Woolsey, Jeane Kirkpatrick, Mort Zuckerman and Max Kampelman; its single most important source of funding is Larry Weinberg, one of AIPAC’s Gang of four, and his wife Barbi.


Kampelman, Kirkpatrick, Perle and Woolsey also sit on the advisory board of Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs, which, as its website notes, seeks “to inform the American defense and foreign community about the important role Israel can and does play in bolstering democratic interests in the Mediterranean and Middle East”. To describe its program more bluntly, JINSA seeks to educate gentile members of the Pentagon in the strategic value of Israel to the US. About half its 56 board members are US generals and admirals. Other members include Stephen Solarz, who while a New York Congressman worked tirelessly on Israel’s behalf; Eric Cantor, the only Jewish Republican in the House, who in 2002 was named the chief deputy majority whip – part of republican program to lure pro-Israel dollars from the Democrats; and Stephan Bryen, a neoconservative who served under Perle in Ronald Reagan’s Pentagon and who is now a defense contractor.


Perle. In addition to sitting on boards of both the Washington Institute and JINSA, is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. So are Joshua Muravichik, a neocon who’s also an adjunct scholar at the Washington Institute; Michael Rubin, an up-and-coming neocon who worked in the in the Pentagon’s Office of Special Plans before becoming a political advisor to the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq; and Michael Ledeen, who helped to set up JINSA and who has spent the several years seeking official backing for regime change in Iran. Together with Morris Amitay, a former executive director of AIPAC, Ledeen is an important force at the Coalition for Democracy in Iran, another advocate for overthrowing the Iranian government. Muravchik, Tanter and Woolsey are all listed as supporters on that coalition’s website.


Rubin, meanwhile, is also the editor of The Middle East Quarterly, which is published by the Middle East Forum, a think tank dedicated to fighting terrorism, countering Islamic extremism and promoting pro-Israel views on college campuses.


The nasty campaign waged against John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt has itself provided an excellent example of the bullying tactics used by the lobby and its supporters. The wide attention their argument has received shows that, in this case, those efforts have not entirely succeeded. Despite many objections, their essay has performed a very useful service in forcing into the open a subject that has for too long remained taboo. 


... Payvand News - 7/28/06 ... --

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