December 5, 2013
There’s a belief among both supporters and critics of diplomacy with Iran that Senate Democrats are afraid to speak up in support of the administration’s successful multilateral diplomacy with Iran because they’re afraid of retaliation from the powerful American Israel Public Affairs Committee.
Weighing in for the neocons, George W. Bush speechwriter Noam Neusner writes in The Forward:
If there is one so-far unexplained mystery about the agreement … it is this: Why are Senate Democrats so silent?
This is, after all, President Obama’s biggest diplomatic overture ever…Normally, a party’s leadership will stand behind a president in his moment of diplomatic achievement. Not this time.
If I were working political outreach for the White House, that would worry me a great deal. Right now, the president needs some vocal supporters, and so far, beyond the peacenik caucus, he isn’t getting any.
With a simple stroke of legislative action — something they have the ability and votes to do — [Senate Democrats] could pass a new round of sanctions on Iran and completely undermine the administration’s efforts…such a sanctions bill would completely scuttle the Geneva agreement.
Ultimately, these senators may not care if they get labeled as spoilers. After all, they want to be in Washington long after Obama leaves the White House…These are the men and the women, after all, who are on a first-name basis with most of the board of AIPAC.
Remember, this is Washington we’re talking about. The only time someone doesn’t issue a press release or tweet out a thought, it’s because they don’t see the value yet. Silence is damnation without political energy.
Weighing in from an anti-neocon perspective, former AIPAC staffer M.J. Rosenberg writes in the Washington Spectator:
In the normal course of affairs, Democrats would be ecstatic about the agreement that Secretary of State John Kerry brought home from Geneva and not only for the most obvious reasons. If it holds, the agreement will prevent development of an Iranian nuclear weapon and lead to normalizing of relations with a powerful Middle East state with whom we have been in a cold war for 44 years. Improved relations can help us in both Afghanistan and Iraq and in dealing with Iran-sponsored militants throughout the Middle East and elsewhere.
With the off-year election looming, Democrats can go into the campaign with something tangible to show, something almost on a par with Nixon’s China breakthrough. Congressional majorities are built on successes like the one in Geneva.
Only that’s not happening. Most Democrats are too scared to even discuss Iran.
But here’s the thing: it’s not true that Senate Democrats as a group have been afraid to endorse the deal, as the Friends Committee on National Legislation has documented here.
Here’s Sen. Dianne Feinstein, chair of the Senate intelligence committee:
I support the agreement reached today between the P5+1 countries and Iran, which I believe is a significant step toward solving one of the most difficult security challenges facing the world today…By any standard, this agreement is a giant step forward and should not be undermined by additional sanctions at this time.
Here’s Sen. Carl Levin, chair of the Senate armed services committee:
I support the interim deal with Iran. It is a realistic, practical way to freeze Iran’s nuclear program for six months while we seek a long-range diplomatic end to Iran’s nuclear weapon ambition.
As FCNL noted, Sens. Boxer, Reid, Heinrich, Nelson, Manchin, Murphy, Kaine, Whitehouse, Rockefeller, and Durbin also made statements supporting the deal.
So the story that Senate Democrats have been completely silent is false. Critics of diplomacy have certainly been a lot louder, in part because pro-war media like CNN give critics of diplomacy a big platform they don’t give to diplomacy advocates, as Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting has documented.
But Senate Democrats like Dick Durbin don’t seem to have any trouble getting themselves on national TV. Durbin made his remarks in support of the deal to local media in Alton, Illinois. With all due respect to the good people of Alton — some of my best friends are from Alton! — I don’t think the Alton Daily News is going to counteract CNN.
And there are some noteworthy Senate Democrats missing from FCNL’s list.
Where, for example, is progressive champion Elizabeth Warren?
Her absence is surprising, because earlier this year, she spoke out forcefully in the Senate for the commonsense demand that U.S. sanctions on Iran should facilitate a diplomatic solution, not undermine a diplomatic solution.
Given that neocons like Noam Neusner are agitating for new Congressional sanctions on Iran now in the hopes that this will sink diplomacy, shouldn’t Senator Warren be speaking out now?
You can urge Senator Warren to back diplomacy with Iran here.