In Sharp About Turn, AIPAC Joins Obama in Call to Delay Iran Sanctions Vote
In a sharp about turn, AIPAC, the America Israel Public Affairs Committee, has now backed the White House in its call to delay a Senate vote on new sanctions against Iran while the U.S. and world powers negotiate with the Islamic Republic over its nuclear program.
In a statement released on the heels of an extensive speech by Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), calling on both sides of the Iran sanctions debate to soften their positions, AIPAC said, “We agree with the Chairman that stopping the Iranian nuclear program should rest on bipartisan support and that there should not be a vote at this time on the measure.”
Menendez, who together with Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), is a lead sponsor of the bill known as the Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act, did not explicitly call for a delay in a vote which dozens of Republican senators have pushed for, but he did warn against the Iran issue becoming a “partisan process trying to force a vote on a national security matter before its appropriate time.”
Menendez also critiqued the White House’s stance on Iran, saying, “We have placed our incredibly effective international sanctions regime on the line without clearly defining the parameters of what we expect in a final agreement.”
AIPAC praised the New Jersey senator for “his strong and eloquent statement on the Senate floor today outlining the threat of Iran’s nuclear program and the imperative of dismantling it.”
“We remain committed to working with the Administration and the bipartisan leadership in Congress to ensure that the Iran nuclear program is dismantled,” the pro-Israel lobby added.
Last November, when details of an interim deal between Iran and world powers were first revealed, AIPAC and other Jewish groups criticized the agreement as giving up too much for too little, and vowed to push hard in Congress for new sanctions.
“AIPAC continues to support congressional action to adopt legislation to further strengthen sanctions and there will absolutely be no pause, delay or moratorium in our efforts,” AIPAC President Michael Kassen said at the time.
The Obama administration strongly opposed the effort, leaning on lawmakers to tow its line. In his “State of the Union” address last Tuesday, Obama said, “Let me be clear: if this Congress sends me a new sanctions bill now that threatens to derail these talks, I will veto it.”
On Monday, The New York Times claimed that AIPAC’s influence in the Senate had been “blunted,” pointing to slow progress with the bill.