, last updated: January 16, 2013
The Emergency Committee for Israel is a neoconservative pressure group that has pushed the United States to attack Iran and smeared critics—real or perceived—of the U.S. relationship with Israel. Its latest target is former Sen. Chuck Hagel, a Republican nominated to head the Obama administration’s Department of Defense. In a series of vicious attack ads, which one blogger called “ugly” and “facts-optional,” ECI has accused the Vietnam veteran of being weak on Iran and hostile towards Israel.
Well-known neoconservative activist and Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol has tried to shape national discourse on everything from the Iraq War to the choice of Sarah Palin and Paul Ryan as GOP vice presidential candidates. Kristol’s latest campaign has been aimed at spurring opposition to the nomination of former Senator Hagel as defense secretary. The campaign appears to be part of a broader Kristol-led effort to de-emphasize unpopular GOP fiscal positions and instead focus on cultivating the party’s hawkish agenda in the wake of Mitt Romney’s defeat.
Marshall Wittmann is a longtime Washington operative whose interventionist, “pro-Israel” politics have led him to take a variety of positions—including on the staffs of Sens. John McCain and Joseph Lieberman, at the Christian Coalition, and at think tanks espousing various ideological stripes. Now a spokesman for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), Wittman was recently tasked with explaining why AIPAC would stay silent on the nomination of former Sen. Chuck Hagel to head the Defense Department—a nomination other “pro-Israel” groups have made a cause celebré of opposing. Wittman said AIPAC “does not take positions on presidential nominations,” but experienced insiders think the group is reluctant to sacrifice its influence at the Pentagon over a nomination fight it is likely to lose.
Randy Scheunemann is a well-connected Washington lobbyist whose clients have included Tea Party politicos, the National Rifle Association, defense contractors, and George Soros’ Open Society Institute. Scheunemann also frequently teams up with neoconservative ideologues to help push particular foreign policy agenda items. A one-time director of the notorious Project for the New American Century—the letterhead group that helped push the United States into the Iraq War—Scheunemann has more recently joined his fellow neocons in trying to sink the nomination of Chuck Hagel as defense secretary. He quipped recently that Hagel is a “now the über-realist about not committing ground troops” but he had “no compunction about endorsing the guy [Senator McCain] who wanted all options on the table” in Kosovo.
The track record of Danielle Pletka, vice president of foreign and defense policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute, includes pressing the Iraq “surge,” arguing against U.S. engagement with Iran, and charging Chuck Hagel with “anti-Semitism” for criticizing the influence of the Israel lobby. It is not the first time Pletka has wielded this slur. In May 2004, for example, she told a Washington Post reporter: “I think the phrase 'neocon' is much more popular among people who think it shields their anti-Semitism. But it doesn't.”
According to the GOP strategist and super-PAC head, Chuck Hagel’s support for John McCain over George W. Bush in 2000 revealed something about the former senator’s character. “When McCain became a credible candidate he just flipped,” Rove said in a recent interview. “That’s Hagel: mercurial, focused on doing it his way.”
FROM THE WIRES
Chuck Hagel is no political progressive, but the former Nebraska senator does have a history of butting heads with neoconservatives, the defense industry, and the Israel lobby.
President Obama’s appointment of Chuck Hagel to head the Pentagon will likely prove contentious, even as his appointment of John Brennan—an architect of the administration’s controversial targeted killing program—will likely proceed unencumbered.
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Henry Sokolski, a former aide to Paul Wolfowitz, is the executive director of the Nonproliferation Policy Education Center and a member of the board of advisors of the controversial activist group United Against Nuclear Iran. Sokolski’s track record includes pressing conflict in Iran and promoting aggressive counter-proliferation policies. Along with the controversial analyst David Albright, a frequent collaborator with neoconservative groups, Sokolski is one of a very small handful of arms control “experts” who have heaped criticism on the Iran nuclear deal.
David Albright’s criticisms of the Iran nuclear deal have placed him amongst a diminishingly small group of arms control “experts” who oppose or seek to change the agreement. Underscoring Albright’s isolation, Mark Wallace of the controversial activist group United Against a Nuclear Iran was hard-pressed during a recent interview to identify many anti-deal figures in the arms control community, stating: “David Albright, even though he’s not affiliated with us, has been very useful.”
Neoconservative ideologue Elliott Abrams wildly accuses President Obama of resorting to anti-Semitism in his criticisms of the Iran nuclear deal’s opponents. "The president ... must know that he is here feeding a deep line of anti-Semitism that accuses American Jews of getting America into wars," Abrams proclaimed in a recent op-ed.
Eric Edelman, a former advisor to Vice President Dick Cheney and longtime opponent of the Iran nuclear negotiations, has joined the chorus of voices calling for Congress to revoke the Iran deal. At a recent Senate hearing, he argued that while the United States should “embark on a new round of diplomacy” with Iran, Congress should consider “coupling its disapproval of the deal with authorization for the use of force to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapons capability.”
The American Security Initiative is an anti-Iran deal advocacy organization spearheaded by hawkish former Sens. Joe Lieberman (I-CT), Saxby Chambliss (R-GA), Evan Bayh (D-IN), and Norm Coleman (R-MN). Renowned for its alarmist ads about Iran’s nuclear program, the group recently announced a $6.5 million ad campaign that the New York Times has said is “aimed at derailing President Obama’s nuclear agreement with Iran.”
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August 18, 2015
It appears that a consensus has emerged among vast majority of nuclear non-proliferation experts in support of the nuclear deal with Iran.
August 10, 2015
The stridently anti-deal United Against Nuclear Iran and its president Gary Samore have parted ways after Samore came out in favor of the Iranian nuclear deal.
August 10, 2015
Critics of the Iran nuclear deal seek to inoculate themselves from pushback by leveling claims of anti-Semitism at President Obama and others who have noted the warmongering agenda of many of the right-wing “pro-Israel” groups.
August 08, 2015
The Iranian nuclear deal could lead to a broader rapprochement between the United States and Iran, resulting in a more stable Middle East.
August 05, 2015
John Bolton, the neoconservative former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, has ironically criticized a provision of the Iran deal that recognizes U.S. veto power within the U.N. Security Council.
August 04, 2015
A senior South Korean diplomat argues that the Iran nuclear deal will likely have a “positive impact” on North Korea.
August 03, 2015
The real fear that Israel and most Gulf states have about the Iran nuclear deal is that it may lead to broader Iranian-American rapprochement.