After Iran and world powers announced a framework agreement last week laying out guidelines for a final nuclear deal due by the end of June, opponents of a deal went immediately on the defensive. One group, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) was perhaps the most explicit. Their next-day “memo” reportedly circulated in temples over Passover, one of the many famous policy documents they released to activists framed opposition to the framework agreement as rebuttals to arguments in favor of it.
I’ll leave the parsing of all the talking points to someone else, except to note that some of them present straw-men arguments (no one, for instance, has made the “Iran Can Be Trusted Argument”) and some collapse under even basic comparisons to what the agreement entails (pushing back on the “Increased Access Argument” must be difficult, since the framework would clearly increase access for inspections).
One of the arguments, however, caught my eye. The talking point was presented this way:
Critics Want War Argument: Congressional critics, Israel, the pro-Israel movement, and the Sunni Arab neighbors of Iran all want war with Iran, not an agreement.
Response: No one wants war. This argument is outrageous and meant to silence and delegitimize any critics of the deal. Each of these parties wants a diplomatic solution that truly guarantees Iran’s nuclear program can only be used for peaceful purposes. They all fear that an agreement based on the current framework’s parameters won’t meet that test and will lead to a nuclear arms race in the Middle East.
The problem with saying “no one wants war” is of course that some people do want war. These include some congressional critics, some Israeli officials, some in the pro-Israel movement and some of Iran’s Sunni Arab neighbors. None acts as a monolith, but their beautiful diversity definitely includes some warmongers.
AIPAC, moreover, surely knows this. Sheldon Adelson, a sometime AIPAC funder and partner who remains a major force in the “pro-Israel movement” has for example called for nuking Iran. The group’s stable of regular speakers at fundraisers and events includes several figures who have, indeed, called for war with Iran. Just consider a January AIPAC fundraiser in New York, headlined by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and former Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I/D-CT)—both of whom have at some point called for military strikes. As Lieberman once boasted, there is a “broad bipartisan base of support” for such an attack.
The most glaring example along these lines comes from an AIPAC “Club” event in Florida at the end of March. The speaker there was Joshua Muravchik, a neoconservative scholar at Hopkins. That appearance came just over a week after Muravchik published a case for war with Iran in The Washington Post—following similar calls in 2006, 2007, 2008, 2011, and 2014.
AIPAC can pretend “no one wants war,” but that’s just not true. One need only consult a long list of those associated with the lobby group itself to see that some do indeed “want war with Iran, not an agreement.” If they’re going to make fact-based arguments, AIPAC should stake out its opposition to its own associates, not deny the facts of their positions.