AIPAC: We Will Continue to Work for Stronger Sanctions Against Iran

Rare statement follows furor sparked by Haaretz reports on agreement to refrain from sanctions campaign during next rounds of talks.

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In a rare public statement, the America Israel Public Affairs Committee distanced itself on Saturday from reports that it would refrain from campaigning for additional U.S. sanctions against Iran saying that “there will absolutely be no pause, delay or moratorium in our efforts.”

“AIPAC supports diplomatic efforts to achieve an end to Iran's nuclear program,” AIPAC President and lay leader Michael Kassen said in a statement issued by the organization. “Diplomatic talks have been made possible because of the strong sanctions passed by Congress and implemented by the Administration. Until Iran suspends its enrichment program, additional sanctions are vital for diplomacy to succeed.”

The on-record statement came a few hours after Haaretz quoted ADL National Director Abe Foxman as confirming that Jewish leaders who had met with senior White House staff last week had agreed to stay their public campaigns for stronger sanctions. “That means that we are not lobbying for additional sanctions and we are not lobbying for less sanctions,” he told Haaretz, as well as other U.S. media outlets.

Multiple sources have now confirmed to Haaretz that following their White House meeting, Jewish representatives had agreed to honor the Administration’s request and to refrain from campaigning publicly in favor of new and tougher sanctions against Iran during the next round of talks between the P5+1 forum and the new Iranian government.

National Security Adviser Susan Rice and other senior U.S. officials had told the group that strengthening sanctions at this time could unravel the international coalition against Iran and could jeopardize chances for a negotiated settlement to the nuclear standoff with Tehran.

It is understood, however, that the Haaretz revelation of the understandings reached among representatives of the Conference of Presidents, the American Jewish Committee, AIPAC and Foxman’s Anti Defamation League, which were meant to be kept secret, sparked anger among groups that had been kept out of the White House meeting and fierce internal debate among top professional, lay leaders and donors of the Jewish “quartet” that had attended the talks.

Israeli government figures are also understood to have questioned the agreement reached after the White House meeting.

Although the Haaretz report alluded only to a temporary “cease fire” in public campaigning and only in connection to additional sanctions, some officials were concerned that the publication might be misinterpreted in Congress as a signal that Jewish groups did not support stronger sanctions, or worse, that they would not oppose an easing of the sanctions already in place.

One Jewish official, however, said that some of the backlash against the report were also the result of “internal power plays,” protests by angry donors and lay leaders who had not been consulted about the move, and by what he called “sour grapes” by leaders who had been invited but had not attended the meeting.

Foxman made clear, however, that the hiatus is only tactical in nature. “We still believe that sanctions have worked and that additional sanctions would also work,” he said, “but the Administration feels otherwise.”

“We didn’t change our positions and they didn’t change their positions. But we’re not going to be out there before the end of the next two meetings of the P5+1 with Iran.” 

Producing oil in Iran.Credit: Reuters