The Republican Jewish Coalition — led by GOP mega-donor Sheldon Adelson — is asking its members to call their senators and urge them to pass a new round of sanctions on Iran amid efforts from top Obama administration officials to persuade Congress to delay such measures to allow time for negotiations with the Islamic Republic over its nuclear program to “gain traction.”
The House passed a new sanctions bill in July that seeks to cut off all oil purchases from Iran, along with other punitive measures, and the Senate Banking Committee was poised to take up a similar bill this week. But the White House is asking Congress to hold off, at least temporarily. “We think that this is a time for a pause to see if these negotiations [with Iran] can gain traction,” U.S. lead negotiator with Iran Wendy Sherman said last week. Indeed, Secretary of State John Kerry and Treasury Secretary Jack Lew will head to Capitol Hill this week to make the case to skeptical senators.
Yet at the same time, outside groups like the RJC are trying to push Congress in the opposite direction. Interestingly, Adelson, a top Republican donor and casino mogul, is the RJC’s chairman of the board and recently ran into intense criticism for calling on the United States to set off a nuclear weapon inside Iran as a warning to Tehran to halt its nuclear program (Adelson also gave millions to the RJC in an effort to defeat President Obama in the 2012 presidential election).
The U.N. nuclear watchdog and officials from the U.S. and its international partners have said that recent negotiations with Iran have been constructive and positive. “Some very important things are happening,” Sherman said last week, “we are beginning to understand each other.”
But it appears the RJC would rather push to escalate tensions. “The nuclear threat from Iran’s rogue regime has not abated,” the group said in an email blast to supporters on Tuesday. “In fact, despite a vigorous ‘charm offensive’ by their new president — and the Obama administration’s insistence that diplomatic discussions are going well — the threat has only been growing.”
“Call your U.S. Senators and urge that they ask Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Banking Committee Chairman Tim Johnson (D-SD) to allow action on the Senate’s version ” of the House sanctions bill, the RJC email says.
Adelson doesn’t appear to see it the Obama administration’s way either, judging by his “nuke Iran” comments this week, and by the fact that he has given $1.5 million to an influential think-tank whose “Iran experts” either regularly call for war with the Islamic Republic or see sanctions as a means, not for an agreement with Iran over its nuclear program, but ultimately for regime change.