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47 Senators Take AIPAC’s Word Over U.S. Intel Community

Forty-seven U.S. senators have signed on to cosponsor an AIPAC-backed Iran sanctions package that could tank U.S. diplomatic progress with Iran, which appears to be exactly what its advocates want.

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LobeLog

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) has published the list of senators who so far have agreed to co-sponsor the Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act of 2013, aka the Wag the Dog Act of 2014. You’ll recall that the initial list, which was introduced by its principal engineers, Sens. Mark Kirk and Robert Menendez, Dec 19, included 26 co-sponsors equally divided between Democrats and Republicans, to which newly elected New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker quickly added his name. Since then, 20 other senators — all Republicans, unsurprisingly — have added their names, for a grand total of 47 — still short of a majority, let alone one that could survive an Obama veto that the White House has already committed the president to cast if the bill is passed in its present form.

According to the AIPAC list, which is reproduced below, 53 senators, including 36 Democrats and the two independents who normally vote with the Democratic caucus, have not agreed to co-sponsor the bill, or, in the dreaded moniker used by AIPAC to score lawmakers’ voting records (presumably for the benefit of the “pro-Israel” PACs that decide how to dole out campaign cash), are labeled “DNC,” for "did not cosponsor." They will undoubtedly be the top targets for AIPAC’s legendary powers of persuasion when the Senate reconvenes early next week.

What is remarkable about this list, however, is that very few of the 47 co-sponsors have chosen to publicize their support for the bill to their constituents through local media or other means. A handful of the original co-sponsors put out press releases, as did Rob Portman, a late joiner. Lamar Alexander, another late-comer, courageously “tweeted” his backing for the bill. “If this were a bill senators were excited about; that is, something they thought they’d earn a lot of credit for — and not draw a lot of heat — from their voters, you’d think all of the co-sponsors would be proudly touting their support,” one veteran Hill observer told me. “Clearly, even for the Republican [co-sponsors], that doesn’t seem to be the case with this bill.”

In other words, the co-sponsors appear to be targeting a very narrow constituency — AIPAC, which is now touting their names — rather than their voters back home, most of whom probably have no idea of what their senator’s position is or what may be at stake. Which raises an interesting question: If the folks back home knew that their senator was supporting a bill that would make another war in the Middle East more, rather than less likely, would there be an outcry as there was after Obama (and AIPAC) asked Congress to approve military action against Syria? Would some senators feel compelled to reassess their support?

One other point: others — most recently and convincingly, Colin Kahl and Paul Pillar — have argued just how counter-productive and potentially dangerous this bill is, and we have republished their arguments for the benefit of LobeLog readers in recent days. But it should be stressed that the 47 co-sponsors of this bill, most notably the 14 Democrats who have signed on to it, have effectively decided that Bibi Netanyahu and AIPAC are more credible sources about Iran and what it is likely to do in the P5+1 negotiations if this sanctions bill becomes law than either the U.S. diplomats who are directly involved in the talks or the U.S. intelligence community. Which is a rather startling fact, especially given, for example, Bibi’s predictive record on Iraq in the run-up to the U.S. invasion and his quarrels with his own intelligence community with respect to Iran.

U.S. officials beginning at the top with Obama, then running through John Kerry and Wendy Sherman have stated repeatedly that the passage of a new sanctions bill — even one that would take effect prospectively — would not only violate the spirit, if not the letter, of the Nov. 24 agreement; it would also call into serious question Washington’s good faith; quite possibly isolate the U.S. within the P5+1 with disastrous results for the existing sanctions regime; and sufficiently strengthen hardliners in Tehran to force its government to toughen its demands at the negotiating table, if not abandon the diplomatic path altogether (and with it the chances of a peaceful diplomatic settlement). As the most recent assessment by the intelligence community, for which these same 47 senators have approved annual budgets ranging as high as 70 billion dollars in recent years, concluded: “[N]ew sanctions would undermine the prospects for a successful comprehensive nuclear agreement with Iran.”

Of course, that’s precisely why Netanyahu and AIPAC are pushing the new sanctions package.

S. 1881

The Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act of 2013

Below is a list of senators who have cosponsored or indicated their intention to cosponsor The Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act of 2013.

47 Members Who Cosponsored

First Name

Last Name

State

Party

Lamar

Alexander

TN

R

Kelly

Ayotte

NH

R

Mark

Begich

AK

D

Richard

Blumenthal

CT

D

Roy

Blunt

MO

R

Cory

Booker

NJ

D

John

Boozman

AR

R

Benjamin

Cardin

MD

D

Bob

Casey

PA

D

Saxby

Chambliss

GA

R

Daniel

Coats

IN

R

Thomas

Coburn

OK

R

Susan

Collins

ME

R

Chris

Coons

DE

D

Bob

Corker

TN

R

John

Cornyn

TX

R

Ted

Cruz

TX

R

Joe

Donnelly

IN

D

Michael

Enzi

WY

R

Deb

Fischer

NE

R

Kirsten

Gillibrand

NY

D

Lindsey

Graham

SC

R

Kay

Hagan

NC

D

Orrin

Hatch

UT

R

Jim

Inhofe

OK

R

Johnny

Isakson

GA

R

Mike

Johanns

NE

R

Mark

Kirk

IL

R

Mary

Landrieu

LA

D

Mike

Lee

UT

R

Joe

Manchin

WV

D

John

McCain

AZ

R

Bob

Menendez

NJ

D

Jerry

Moran

KS

R

Lisa

Murkowski

AK

R

Rob

Portman

OH

R

Mark

Pryor

AR

D

James

Risch

ID

R

Pat

Roberts

KS

R

Marco

Rubio

FL

R

Charles

Schumer

NY

D

Tim

Scott

SC

R

John

Thune

SD

R

Pat

Toomey

PA

R

David

Vitter

LA

R

Mark

Warner

VA

D

Roger

Wicker

MS

R

53 Members Who Did Not Cosponsor

First Name

Last Name

State

Party

Tammy

Baldwin

WI

D

John

Barrasso

WY

R

Max

Baucus

MT

D

Michael

Bennet

CO

D

Barbara

Boxer

CA

D

Sherrod

Brown

OH

D

Richard

Burr

NC

R

Maria

Cantwell

WA

D

Thomas

Carper

DE

D

Thad

Cochran

MS

R

Michael

Crapo

ID

R

Richard

Durbin

IL

D

Dianne

Feinstein

CA

D

Jeff

Flake

AZ

R

Al

Franken

MN

D

Chuck

Grassley

IA

R

Tom

Harkin

IA

D

Martin

Heinrich

NM

D

Heidi

Heitkamp

ND

D

Dean

Heller

NV

R

Mazie

Hirono

HI

D

John

Hoeven

ND

R

Tim

Johnson

SD

D

Ron

Johnson

WI

R

Timothy

Kaine

VA

D

Angus

King

ME

I

Amy

Klobuchar

MN

D

Patrick

Leahy

VT

D

Carl

Levin

MI

D

Ed

Markey

MA

D

Claire

McCaskill

MO

D

Mitch

McConnell

KY

R

Jeff

Merkley

OR

D

Barbara

Mikulski

MD

D

Christopher

Murphy

CT

D

Patty

Murray

WA

D

Bill

Nelson

FL

D

Rand

Paul

KY

R

Jack

Reed

RI

D

Harry

Reid

NV

D

Jay

Rockefeller

WV

D

Bernie

Sanders

VT

I

Brian

Schatz

HI

D

Jeff

Sessions

AL

R

Jeanne

Shaheen

NH

D

Richard

Shelby

AL

R

Debbie

Stabenow

MI

D

Jon

Tester

MT

D

Mark

Udall

CO

D

Tom

Udall

NM

D

Elizabeth

Warren

MA

D

Sheldon

Whitehouse

RI

D

Ron

Wyden

OR

D

Jim Lobe is best known for his coverage of U.S. foreign policy, particularly the neoconservative influence in the Bush administration. The Washington Bureau Chief of the international news agency Inter Press Service (IPS), Lobe has written for various outlets and was featured in BBC and ABC television documentaries about motivations for the US invasion of Iraq. Read his complete biography.

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