Jim Lobe, a veteran journalist and founder of LobeLog.com, discusses how AIPAC and its pro-Israel supporters in the US Congress can still derail the Iran nuclear agreement – even though it seems Obama has it wrapped up.
Alright you guys welcome back to the show, I’m Scott Horton it’s my show the Scott Horton Show. I got Jim Lobe on the line. He is from lobelog.com and he has got a couple of very important pieces for us to look at here, in fact that entire blog is very important, nothing gets published there that is not very important so please go and look at it. These two are AIPAC’s Plan B and Cardon? The Iran Deal And The Future Of AIPAC’s Plan B. Welcome back to the show, how are you doing Jim?
JL: Hi Scott, how are you?
SH: I’m doing really good, I appreciate you joining us on the show here. We have enough democratic senators now not necessarily to filibuster but definitely enough to prevent the overriding of the Presidents veto of the presumably soon to be passed republican resolution against the Iran deal, and so therefore its passage is secure now, it will be implemented, it’s virtually certain and locked up now. So this is why the term Plan B here, that didn’t work, so now what are they going to do Jim?
JL: Well actually there is kind of an update to my last post on this because Senator Cardin said he will vote against the Iran deal, he said this in an Op Ed that was published on the Washington Post website just about an hour ago i think, and in his Op Ed he says he is going to introduce a legislation that I think is Plan B, although it’s not entirely clear because he doesn’t provide much in the way of detail. And this Plan B is essentially designed to quote ‘strengthen’ unquote, the JCPOA – that is the nuclear deal between the P5+1 in Iran by adding some provisions which he would like to see enacted into law and I think in this respect he is acting as a cat paw AIPAC, he laid out four provisions with respect to the legislation he intends to introduce but they’re not very specific and he also said that these provisions would be consistent with the administrations interpretation of the JCPOA so until we actually see the details of that bill we can’t really know if in fact such provisions will be consistent. But it does tend to confirm, this Op Ed, that Cardin wants to introduce something that will probably be backed by AIPAC – probably drafted in part by AIPAC, that could still derail the deal, particularly by strengthening hardliners in Iran who argue that the United States cannot be trusted and will not act in good faith.
SH: This, in the previous piece you have here some draft legislation that somebody furnished you here, do you think that this is different than what Cardin is going to be introducing? It sounds like it’s probably along the same lines even down to the number of different hurdles they’re going to introduce here, no?
JL: I think it will definitely overlap, my suspicion is that this legislation is still being negotiated because …
SH: It’s an important taste of what direction they’re going here, trying to figure out ways to sabotage the deal…
JL: Right, essentially what they want is legislation that they say will strengthen the JCPOA but will actually probably include a number of poison pills – that is provisions that would be unacceptable to Iran or to Washington’s negotiating partners. But we again, he lists four general points but we don’t know the specific provisions, we do know that some of the specific provisions that appeared in the draft that I published a few days ago, would be poison pills, for example, providing the latest bunker busters and the means to deliver them to Israel, or immediately extending the Iran Sanctions Act, Iran has already said that would be unacceptable to them. So we do know, well we have some idea of what would be in fact poison pills if it’s included in this legislation but he doesn’t provide much in the way of detail, there are certainly hints that it may include provisions that would be poison pills and undoubtedly AIPAC would be pushing him and whoever backs this bill – republicans in particular, to include poison pills, the issue then will be: will they gather enough democrats who are uncomfortable with the JCPOA even though they ended up voting for it, or will end up voting for it, will they attract enough of those democrats to create a veto proof majority?
SH: In other words, as far as those democrats to, if politically they don’t want to oppose the President on this but they’re sort of on the line, well maybe we can get them to vote for these amendments, that way they can say they supported the deal but they are actually supporting things that will ruin the deal – that will obviously force Iran out of the deal.
JL: Well it wouldn’t be in the form of an amendment because what the congress will be voting on …is a resolution, but they’re suggesting that there would be, immediately after or even at the same time, additional legislation designed, in their words, to strengthen the JCPOA but actually may be designed to sabotage it.
SH: And politically that’s smart right? I mean that sounds like exactly the kind of thing that they will be able to pressure some democrats on the fence into that, that will be their compromise.
JL: Right, for example, yesterday both Senator Warner, and Senator Booker of New Jersey announced that they will vote against the resolution that would reject the JCPOA but then they, in their statements they would favor legislation that would do, for example, deliver the bunker busters, that’s what Booker wanted, or extend the Iran Sanctions Act, Warner included that in his statement, so these democrats might be attracted to this legislation that Cardin is talking about and it’s significant that it’s Cardin because Cardin is the ranking democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, so he has influence. The question is what will be the details of this provision? Will there be poison pills? How will the White House react? Can the White House keep the democrats in line? So the war over this, over the JCPOA, is not over and remember that the leader, the supreme leader in Iran Khamenei announced yesterday that he wanted this to be debated by the Iranian parliament or the Majlis and hardliners in the Majlis, the were over-represented in the Majlis, are going to make any effort by congress now to pass additional legislation that could be interpreted as sanctions or as threatening military action by Israel or whatever, hardliners will use that in the debate in Iran, it’s this kind of,what Cardin has done essentially will strengthen hardliners who will be arguing against ratification of the JCPOA by the Iranian parliament. So JCPOA is not a done deal – at least as far as this country is concerned and probably possibly as far as Iran is concerned.
SH: To try and look on the bright side of it, with Booker and Warner and it says here Heitkamp, now that they have come out in favor, we’re actually getting pretty close, how many votes are we away from the ability of the democrats to even possibly filibuster the negative resolution?
JL: Well actually it wouldn’t be a filibuster, because there is an agreement that this resolution would pass under normal, or under regular order and that means it has to be negotiated between the majority and the minority leadership, and the minority leadership will probably say that since it is being done under regular order that the resolution needs to pass by 60 votes, so technically it wouldn’t be a filibuster. I think there are now four outstanding democrats who have not committed one way or the other, and I don’t know, I think it’s very difficult to predict, I think Senator Wyden from Oregon is the most likely to line up with the republicans in opposition and I think we need the side that wants the resolution, I mean that wants the JCPOA, needs 3 more votes, so I think that 3 out of the 4 that remain uncommitted, and as I say I think Wyden will oppose, I think a lot depends now on Senator Blumenthal from Connecticut, I think he is probably the key swing vote. But I haven’t done the math this morning because Cardin was still up in the air and as I say he just decided to vote no.
SH: Yeah. That’s really too bad about Wyden, he seems like a decent and honest enough guy that he could be intellectually honest about this issue enough to come down on the right side of it, but I guess not.
JL: Well my understanding is that he is very tight with AIPAC and the lobby but I personally have no great inside knowledge about it.
SH: Well, listen I’ve already kept you a little bit over here and sorry about that, thanks very much for coming on the show Jim, I appreciate it.
JL: Sure, thanks Scott.
Alright so that’s Jim Lobe, he’s at wwwlobelog.com. We’ll be right back in just a sec.