Right-wing Israel lobby groups are in the second half of a fierce campaign to convince Congress and the American public that the Iran deal should be rejected.
THOMAS HEDGES, TRNN: Right-wing Israel lobby groups like the American-Israel Pubic Affairs Committee or AIPAC are halfway through an enormous PR campaign right now. They’re trying to convince both Congress and the American public that the Iran nuclear deal, which was approved last month, was a mistake. BEN NORTON, JOURNALIST: So I mean, it’s spent in the first half of the year lobbying different members of Congress. HEDGES: But since the bill’s passage in late July, APIAC has funneled another $40 million or so into a 60-day campaign in an effort to dismantle the agreement. NORTON: The majority of the money has actually gone into a group that’s run by AIPAC, but it’s technically not AIPAC. It’s a different tax-exempt lobbying organization called Citizens for a Nuclear-Free Iran. And what they’ve been doing with this is paying for different ads, especially on TV, but ads throughout society. So you might have seen some of these TV ads that are already appearing. VOICEOVER: Congress should reject a bad deal. HEDGES: But despite key senate Democrats like Bob Menendez and Chuck Schumer stating their opposition to the deal, AIPAC is struggling to convince American voters that its credibility doesn’t lie purely in how much money it has to spend. PHYLLIS BENNIS, INSTITUTE FOR POLICY STUDIES: We will fund your opponents, is the unspoken undercurrent of these kinds of pressure techniques. HEDGES: And funding the opponents has largely fallen flat. For example, last week the right-wing group United Against a Nuclear Iran saw its president, a non-proliferation expert at Harvard named Gary Samore stepped down after admitting he couldn’t fight a deal that he actually believes in. BENNIS: In response to that AIPAC and the people putting in the money brought in as the next chair of the board or president, I don’t even know what title it is, but the next leader of this organization, former Senator Joseph Lieberman, who whatever else he is, is no nuclear expert. HEDGES: As a result, American voters are increasingly disillusioned with an Israel lobby that speaks the language of money and special interest only. In a recent poll from the Jewish Journal, not only do more Americans support the deal than not, but an even bigger majority of American Jews support the deal. BENNIS: The fact that AIPAC, which claims to represent the interest of U.S. Jews, boy are they out of touch with the actual opinion of Jews in this country. They ignore the reality that organizations like Jewish Voice for Peace are the organizations that are rising in the Jewish community, while the influence of AIPAC is declining. AIPAC has the money in the Jewish community. They represent older, richer, more right-wing Jews. HEDGES: That small class of people doesn’t want there to be any kind of reconciliation between the United States and Iran. GIORGIO CAFIERO, FOUNDER AND ANALYST, GULF STATE ANALYTICS: The biggest issue that the two countries have been dealing with for the last decade or so is Iran’s nuclear program. And this agreement really provides two countries the ability to move past this one issue which was the biggest source of tension in the relationship. There’s a real concern in Israel, as well as in Saudi Arabia and some other Gulf Arab monarchies that if the United States and Iran improve their relationship the U.S. will place less value on a strategic alliance with these countries that have played a very important role in U.S. foreign policy for decades. HEDGES: But despite AIPAC’s campaign to sway Congress, even Republican leadership in Washington is saying that a blocked deal is looking more and more unlikely.