Right Web

Tracking militarists’ efforts to influence U.S. foreign policy

Will Steny Hoyer Kill Deal? Will Mandela Help Sustain It?

GOP Majority Leader Eric Cantor and his Democratic counterpart Steny Hoyer are engaged in talks to push a resolution for new Iran sanctions through the House, even as the White house makes diplomatic progress with the regime in Tehran.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

LobeLog

It’s possible — although still not probable — that my assessment earlier this week that the Geneva accord was out of the Congressional woods for this year may have been premature. It appears that Democratic Minority Whip Rep. Steny Hoyer, a long-time stalwart of the Israel lobby, is considering joining with his Republican counterpart, Eric Cantor, in co-sponsoring a measure — the exact details of which have not yet been disclosed — aimed at killing the deal before the Christmas recess. The Washington Post’s Greg Sargent described the state of play and the lobby’s and Cantor’s strategy in the House as of this afternoon.

It’s worth noting that Hoyer and Cantor have led delegations consisting of freshmen members of Congress to Israel virtually every summer for some years now. The trips are sponsored by the American Israel Education Foundation, the “educational” affiliate of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), to ensure that the new lawmakers are thoroughly briefed on the Israeli government’s perspectives on a range of issues. (You may remember the one last year when one Kansas freshman under Cantor’s charge was inspired to go skinny-dipping in Lake Kinneret/Sea of Galilee. This is not the kind of publicity AIPAC normally seeks.)

It’s also worth noting that both Hoyer’s and Cantor’s campaign chests have benefited handsomely from AIPAC-associated political action committees over the years, according to the Center for Responsive Politics’ invaluable opensecrets.org website. For the last decade, they have both ranked among the top ten House recipients of “pro-Israel” largess — Cantor ordinarily within the top three or four, Hoyer a little further down (and he only ranked 12 in the 2003-04 cycle.)  One Capitol Hill Middle East policy veteran who asked not to be named called Hoyer “the (Israel) lobby’s quarterback for the Democrats in the House,” a status presumably confirmed by his leadership of the annual AIPAC codels.

Hoyer must be deeply torn between his ties to the lobby and his position in the Democratic leadership, which appears to be dutifully lining up behind the administration and the Geneva deal, even if it hasn’t been particularly vocal about it as yet. As for Cantor, a true neo-conservative in his foreign-policy views, he is politically much closer to Netanyahu than to Obama, and it will be interesting to see what happens when, as planned, Bibi shows up in Washington Sunday for the annual policy conference of the Brookings Institution’s Saban Center (one day after Obama and Kerry are scheduled to address the conference). (Will Cantor persuade Boehner to invite Bibi to address the House in a special session for more standing ovations perhaps? Will the minority go along?)

Hoyer, of course, is not the only Democrat who is seen as vulnerable to the lobby’s pressure. Much has already been made of the seemingly uninformed complaints by Sens. Chuck Schumer (see this none-too-subtle neo-conservative attempt to keep Schumer in line in the Wall Street Journal today) and Robert Menendezabout the deal. It’s notable that Menendez, who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, was the biggest beneficiary among senators of pro-Israel PACs in the 2011-12 cycle at about $340,000, and ranked eighth in his 2006 run, while Schumer ranked fourth in 2010 and ninth in 2004.

It’s Menendez who has teamed up with Republican Sen. Mark Kirk, who, as I noted last month, has received more campaign financing over the past decade from pro-Israel PACs than any other member of Congress, to lead the drive in the Senate to get new sanctions passed before the end of the year, even if they are prospective in application. Unsurprisingly, Menendez was the only chair of the four Senate committees that consider Iran within their jurisdiction who declined to sign a letter sent to Director of National Intelligence (DNI) James Clapper requesting that they receive periodic briefings on Iran’s compliance with the Geneva agreement. The letter, which was signed by Intelligence Committee Chair Dianne Feinstein, Armed Services Committee Chair Carl Levin, and Banking Committee Chair Tim Johnson, also requested a report by December 12 on the effects, if any, of Congressional action on new sanctions legislation during ongoing negotiations between Iran and the P5+1. It appears that Menendez is uninterested in how our intelligence community assesses Iran’s performance and intentions. That raises the question of whether, like Kirk, the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee has more confidence in the information he gets from AIPAC or Netanyahu.

Meanwhile, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who apparently has presidential ambitions, has maintained a Sphinx-like silence on the deal since it was signed. One wonders whether she can maintain that silence indefinitely, especially given the fact that it was she who was the first U.S. official to state that Washington could indeed abide, under limited circumstances, Iran’s enrichment of uranium as part of a peaceful nuclear program. Permitting any such enrichment by Iran is precisely what Netanyahu, Cantor, Menendez, etc. wish to foreclose, which, Iran experts agree, would effectively kill the deal in its crib.

One final consideration for now: If the gambit of the hawks is to succeed — that is, getting new sanctions legislation or some other deal-killing measure out of the Senate this year — they will have only two weeks to do it. Nelson Mandela’s memorial service, however, will take place Dec 10, and an invitation to attend — especially as part of a presidential delegation — will be irresistible, even to a Republican leadership which finds it convenient now to forget Ronald Reagan’s de facto support for apartheid. But the hours it will take to travel there and back will compress the time Congress has to conclude its business, thus reducing the likelihood that controversial legislation will be taken up.

Moreover, the experience of recalling Mandela’s life and example — notably his rejection of tribalism, revenge, the oppression of any group by another, and zero-sum gamesmanship — can have only a salutory effect on those who are invited and attend. Imagine the possibilities — not only for the U.S. politicos who go, but also for the heads of state, of which I imagine there will be plenty. Will Obama meet Rouhani? Will Peres, or even Netanyahu himself? It could be an interesting moment.

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. 

Share RightWeb

Featured Profiles

Jon Lerner is a conservative political strategist and top adviser to US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley. He was a key figure in the “Never Trump” Campaign, which appears to have led to his being ousted as Vice President Mike Pence’s national security adviser.


Pamela Geller is a controversial anti-Islam activist who has founded several “hate groups” and likes to repeat debunked myths, including about the alleged existence of “no-go” Muslim zones in Europe.


Max Boot, neoconservative military historian at the Council on Foreign Relations, on Trump and Russia: “At every turn Trump is undercutting the ‘get tough on Russia’ message because he just can’t help himself, he just loves Putin too much.”


Although overlooked by President Trump for cabinet post, Gingrich has tried to shape affairs in the administration, including by conspiring with government officials to “purge the State Department of staffers they viewed as insufficiently loyal” to the president.


Former Sen Mark Kirk (R-IL) is an advisor for United Against Nuclear Iran. He is an outspoken advocate for aggressive action against Iran and a fierce defender of right-wing Israeli policies.


A military historian, Kimberly Kagan heads the Institute for the Study of War, where she has promoted the continuation of U.S. war in Afghanistan.


A “non-partisan” policy institute that purports to defend democracies from “militant Islamism,” the neoconservative Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) is an influential base of hawkish advocacy on Middle East policy.


For media inquiries,
email rightwebproject@gmail.com

From the Wires

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Other than the cynical political interests in Moscow and Tehran, there is no conceivable rationale for wanting Bashar al-Assad to stay in power. But the simple fact is, he has won the war. And while Donald Trump has reveled in positive press coverage of the recent attacks on the country, it is clear that they were little more than a symbolic act.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email

The reality is that the Assad regime is winning the Syrian civil war, and this matters far less to U.S. interests than it does to that regime or its allies in Russia and Iran, who see Syria as their strongest and most consistent entrée into the Arab world. Those incontrovertible facts undermine any notion of using U.S. military force as leverage to gain a better deal for the Syrian people.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email

An effective rhetorical tool to normalize military build-ups is to characterize spending increases “modernization.”


Print Friendly, PDF & Email

The Pentagon has officially announced that that “long war” against terrorism is drawing to a close — even as many counterinsurgency conflicts  rage across the Greater Middle East — and a new long war has begun, a permanent campaign to contain China and Russia in Eurasia.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Revelations that data-consulting firm Cambridge Analytica used ill-gotten personal information from Facebook for the Trump campaign masks the more scandalous reality that the company is firmly ensconced in the U.S. military-industrial complex. It should come as no surprise then that the scandal has been linked to Erik Prince, co-founder of Blackwater.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email

As the United States enters the second spring of the Trump era, it’s creeping ever closer to more war. McMaster and Mattis may have written the National Defense Strategy that over-hyped the threats on this planet, but Bolton and Pompeo will have the opportunity to address these inflated threats in the worst way possible: by force of arms.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email

We meet Donald Trump in the media every hour of every day, which blots out much of the rest of the world and much of what’s meaningful in it.  Such largely unexamined, never-ending coverage of his doings represents a triumph of the first order both for him and for an American cult of personality.


RightWeb
share