Remembering When Obama Said Lobbyists Were Trying To Force A War With Iran

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Written by Dana Sanchez
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When Obama was trying to get support for the Iran Nuclear deal, pro-Israel and Jewish organizations were among those who objected most strongly. President Barack Obama meets with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the Oval Office, May 20, 2011 (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak). Obama arrives to speak at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) convention in Washington, May 22, 2011. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite). King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia welcomes Obama to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)

When President Barack Obama was trying to get support for the Iran Nuclear deal, pro-Israel and Jewish organizations were among those who objected most strongly.

They lobbied hard, often citing threats to Israel’s security as a reason for Congress to oppose the deal.

On May 22, 2015, Obama signed the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015 into law. The legislation was passed by the Senate in a 98-1 vote and in the House by a 400-25 vote. According to the deal, Iran would reduce its nuclear facilities and in return, all nuclear-related economic sanctions would be lifted, freeing up tens of billions of dollars in oil revenue and frozen assets.

Iran gained an estimated $150 billion in Iranian assets after nuclear deal, according to Politifact.

The agreement was promoted by Obama but it didn’t just have the support of the U.S. and Iran. Also onboard were China, France, Germany, Russia, the U.K. and the European Union. The deal resulted in Iran getting access to some of its own funds — assets that had been frozen. It wasn’t cash given to Iran by the U.S.

The pro-Israel lobbying group AIPAC — the American Israel Public Affairs Committee — in particular, launched a $20 million-plus effort against the Iran Nuclear agreement including TV ads, emails and visits to congressional offices, CNN reported.

In an August 2015 speech defending the deal, Obama said that “many of the same people who argued for the war in Iraq are now making the case against the Iran nuclear deal.”

Obama also said that “because this is such a strong deal, every nation in the world that has commented publicly, with the exception of the Israeli government, has expressed support.”

Obama delivered a similar message about the Iraq War in a conference call earlier in August 2015, urging progressive groups to speak in support of the Iran nuclear deal amid the intense efforts to defeat it.

“The lobbying that is taking place on the other side is fierce, it is well-financed, it is relentless,” he told them. “And in the absence of your voices, you are going to see the same array of forces that got us into the Iraq War, leading to a situation in which we forgo a historic opportunity and we are back on the path of potential military conflict.”

The assassination of General Qasem Soleimani has helped escalate military conflict between Iran and the U.S. since President Donald Trump sunk the Iran Nuclear Deal, Forbes reported. When Trump pulled the U.S. out of the deal (as he promised to do in his presidential campaign) Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani said Iran would stick with the deal if most of the rest of Europe, China, Russia and the world supported it.

That part of the deal is now off.

Hawks in Israel and the U.S. have spent more than a decade agitating for war against the Iran nuclear program, New York Times reported in September. Trump pulled out of the Iran deal in May 2018, soon after John Bolton took over as his national security adviser.

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C.I.A. director and Secretary of Defense during the Obama administration, Leon Panetta said, “Our fundamental goal has to be to protect our national security interests. What is in the United States’ interest? And yes, we are a friend and an ally of Israel, but I think we always have to maintain a relationship that looks at the bigger picture of that region and what needs to be done to preserve peace in that region.”

Israel and Iran enjoyed good relations for 30 years until the Islamic Revolution of 1979 when Iran severed ties, according to Haaretz. However, military cooperation continued for several years. Iran wanted to use Israeli arms in its war with neighboring Iraq. Before the nuclear accord was signed in 2015, Netanyahu was pushing for the U.S. – or for Israel itself – to attack sites in Iran associated with its nuclear plans, according to the Israeli newspaper.

At her father’s funeral in Tehran on Monday, Qassem Soleimani’s daughter, Zeinab, threatened an attack on the U.S. military in the Mideast and said that America and Israel faced a “dark day” for her father’s killing. Mourners chanted “Death to America” and “Death to Israel”. Some demonstrators burned U.S. and Israeli flags and bore coffins with the images of Netanyahu and Trump.