Right Web

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

Who Are the Billionaires Attacking Obama’s Iran Diplomacy?

LobeLog

Since taking the helm of The Israel Project two and a half years ago, former AIPAC spokesman Josh Block has turned the pro-Israel advocacy group into one of the shrillest opponents of diplomacy with Iran. But, according to documents obtained by The Nation, two of the groups’ billionaire underwriters may have their own anti-Obama impetuses, beyond simply a right-wing objection to striking a nuclear accord with Israel’s arch-foe.

Block’s pushes to denigrate and even kill talks with Iran come a dime a dozen. Just two weeks ago, ahead of Obama’s State of the Union Address, Block emailed a list of reporters with a list of “FACTS AND TALKING POINTS” (his caps) claiming Sens. Mark Kirk and Robert Menendez’s proposed sanctions bill against Iran was “NOT new sanctions legislation.” My colleague Ali Gharib addressed Block’s misleading “FACTS,” pointing out that the first words of the legislation explained its purpose as, “To expand sanctions imposed with respect to Iran and to impose additional sanctions with respect to Iran.” Block’s misrepresentation of the legislation is particularly ironic because he accused the administration of peddling “false,” “misleading” and “ridiculous” information about the sanctions bill. Obama would go on to promise a veto if the bill reached his desk.

TIP’s growing hostility to Obama’s ongoing negotiations with Iran also came to the fore three weeks ago, when Obama reportedly suggested “donors” were behind some of the attempts to sabotage talks with sanctions. Block went apoplectic, telling the Washington Post’s far-right columnist Jennifer Rubin, “It’s a vile suggestion and one that will only damages [sic] the President’s personal credibility and his position.”

So who are the major donors behind TIP, an organization who, under Block’s leadership, has emerged as an attack dog against the White House’s Iran-policy?

A document (viewable here) acquired by The Nation lists TIP’s major donors from October 2012 to September 2013, revealing that just two billionaire hedge funders provided over one-third of the group’s total revenue. The two funders with the outsize roles were GOP megadonor Paul Singer and Hillary Clinton booster Richard Perry. Each contributed $1 million, making them TIP’s two largest donors.

Perry, the media-shy owner of Barneys and manager of the Perry Capital hedge fund, runs in the Clintons’ New York City and Hamptons social circles. He gives to the Clinton Foundation and, along with his wife, makes no secret of his support for Hillary Clinton’s future political aspirations.

A 2007 New York Times profile of Richard and his wife, Lisa Perry, describes two large portrait photographs of Hillary Clinton adorning the hallways of their penthouse apartment. In Tablet magazine profile two years ago, Lisa Perry explains that she lost interest in politics because she “really wanted Hillary to be president.” Despite that disappointment, she contributed to Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign, though her husband, who had contributed in 2008, gave no money.

But even Hillary Clinton, who has her own complicated history with Obama, has refrained from joining in on the calls for new sanctions against Iran. A day after Obama’s State of the Union Address, Clinton that introducing additional sanctions would be a “serious strategic error.”

TIP’s other million-dollar-donor in the period covered by the documents, the GOP megadonor Paul Singer, was no doubt disappointed himself by Obama’s election victories. But if Singer’s other policy-oriented giving is any indication, he’s also majorly committed to pursuing confrontation with Iran. Singer sits on the board of the neoconservative Republican Jewish Coalition and contributed to the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a hawkish think tank whose members have advocated for “crippling sanctions” and bombing Iran.

Singer has also lent his support to the American Enterprise Institute, the brain trust of the George W. Bush White House, whose scholars advocated for the invasion of Iraq and perpetually decry Iran diplomacy in tandem with calls for more hawkish measures.

A disappointed Clinton donor and GOP/neoconservative patron might believe Block’s claims to be fighting the “war of ideas” to defend Israel against the Obama administration’s attempts to solve the nuclear crisis peacefully. But if they’re hoping to bring Jewish-Americans along to TIP’s “war,” they may face higher hurdles: a November poll of American Jewish voters found that 84-percent supported the outlines of an agreement along the lines the Obama administration is reportedly pursuing.

(In the interest of full disclosure, Block attempted to orchestrate a campaign against me and my colleagues at the Center for American Progress back in 2011. Block’s business partner, Lanny Davis, repudiated Block’s smears and the affair culminated in the Truman National Security Project expelling Block for his “mischaracterization” and “character attacks.”)

Share RightWeb

Featured Profiles

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), one of the more effective U.S. lobbying outfits, aims to ensure that the United States backs Israel regardless of the policies Israel pursues.


Erik Prince, former CEO of the mercenary group Blackwater, continues to sell security services around the world as controversies over his work—including in China and the Middle East, and his alleged involvement in collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia—grow.


Gina Haspel is the first woman to hold the position of director of the CIA, winning her confirmation despite her history of involvement in torture during the Iraq War.


Democratic Majority for Israel (DMFI) is a pressure group founded in early 2019 that serves as a watchdog and enforcer of Israel’s reputation in the Democratic Party.


Richard Grenell is the U.S. ambassador to Germany for the Donald Trump administration, known for his brusque and confrontational style.


Zalmay Khalilzad is Donald Trump’s special representative to the Afghan peace process, having previously served as ambassador to Afghanistan and Iraq under George W. Bush.


Robert Joseph played a key role in manipulating U.S. intelligence to support the invasion of Iraq and today is a lobbyist for the MEK.


For media inquiries,
email rightwebproject@gmail.com

From the Wires

The Senate on Wednesday passed a measure mandating the withdrawal of U.S. forces from the Saudi/UAE-led war against Houthi rebels in Yemen. The vote marks the first time since the War Powers Act of 1973 became law that both chambers of Congress have directed the president to withdraw American forces from a conflict.


The Trump administration’s failed “maximum pressure” approach to Iran and North Korea begs the question what the US president’s true objectives are and what options he is left with should the policy ultimately fail.


In the United States, it’s possible to debate any and every policy, domestic and foreign, except for unquestioning support for Israel. That, apparently, is Ilhan Omar’s chief sin.


While Michael Cohen mesmerized the House of Representatives and President Trump resumed his love affair with North Korea’s Kim Jong, one of the most dangerous state-to-state confrontations, centering in Kashmir, began to spiral out of control.


The Trump administration’s irresponsible withdrawal from the landmark Iran nuclear agreement undermined Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and emboldened hardliners who accused him of having been deceived by Washington while negotiating the agreement. However, the Iranian government could use the shock of Zarif’s resignation to push back against hardliners and take charge of both the domestic and foreign affairs of the country while Iran’s foreign opponents should consider the risks of destabilizing the government under the current critical situation.


Europe can play an important role in rebuilding confidence in the non-proliferation regime in the wake of the demise of the INF treaty, including by making it clear to the Trump administration that it wants the United States to refrain from deploying INF-banned missiles in Europe and to consider a NATO-Russian joint declaration on non-first deployment.


The decline in Israel’s appeal to Democrats is directly related to the wider awareness of the country’s increasingly authoritarian nature, its treatment of Palestinians, and its reluctance to take substantive steps toward peace. Pro-Israel liberals face a fundamental paradox trying to reconcile Israel’s illiberalism with their political values.


RightWeb
share