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Thursday, November 25, 2010

Obama seeking to portray START as a Jewish interest

Let me say at the outset of this post that I have no strong feelings one way or the other about the START treaty, but like everything else that comes out of the Obama White House, I regard it with suspicion. On the other hand, I do not understand the 'fierce moral urgency' to have it ratified during a lame duck session of Congress, especially when the Democrats will retain control of the Senate in January subject to filibuster. There are much more urgent items on the agenda. The Bush tax cuts come to mind.

Be that as it may, Obama and his cronies are trying to turn ratification of the START treaty into an issue for the pro-Israel and Jewish community. So far, AIPAC is refusing to play along, as is the ISraeli government (cleverly citing the administration's objections to Prime Minister Netanyahu's meeting with Representative Eric Cantor (R-Va). If the story I posted a few hours ago about Obama and Clinton pulling a bait and switch on Netanyahu turns out to be true, I am sure the Israeli government will continue to sit on the sidelines.

But why try to turn this into an Israeli issue at all? Josh Rogin tries to explain (Hat Tip: Mememorandum).
Vice President Joseph Biden explained why the New START treaty was critical to the effort to isolate Iran in a small roundtable with foreign policy columnists, including your humble Cable guy, at the White House Nov. 19.

“I’m not suggesting that if START fails, all of the sudden we’re back in the Cold War with Russia but I am saying that the things in the margins that make a big difference right now might very well be different,” Biden said, referring to what he called “unprecedented” Russian cooperation on Iran and Afghanistan.

He praised Russia’s decision to forgo selling the S-300 air defense missile to Iran as well as Moscow’s cooperation in bringing new multilateral sanctions against Tehran via the U.N. Security Council. “Absent that cooperation I think [it] is problematic whether or not China or even Europe would have made some of the tougher sanctions decisions that we made,” Biden said.

Back on Capitol Hill, staffers on both sides of the issue are well aware of the administration’s recent activity but had starkly different views on its wisdom and efficacy.

“The idea that this administration, which has manifestly undermined the U.S.-Israel relationship at every turn, would gin up pro-Israel groups to ram this treaty through in the lame duck [session] is a new low, even for an administration that has made a habit of alienating friends and allies,” said one senior GOP Senate aide involved in the issue.

But another Senate aide who is involved in both the New START and Iran issues saw the logic of linking the two.

“It’s politically smart to do this. Once of the central arguments that the administration has been making is that the START treaty is important due to its impact on U.S.-Russia relations and one of the achievements has been to convince Russia to adopt a more cooperative approach on Iran,” the aide said.

But the jury is still out on whether advocacy by pro-Israel groups can cause senior Senate Republicans to rethink their positions. “The center of gravity is still Jon Kyl so I don’t know how it effective it will be in influencing his calculations,” the aide said.
In other words, the administration has found yet another thing to which it can hold hostage the prospect of actually doing something to stop Iran. A new low? Maybe. But given this administration's behavior, the next one is probably not far away.

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At 5:32 AM, Blogger NormanF said...

It deserves to be dismissed with contempt.

This Administration cannot even keep track of promises made to Israel as recently as a month ago.

Israel would do well not to take the bait.

At 9:36 AM, Blogger yzernik said...

Obama mouthpiece Keith Olbermann is pushing this linkage. And we all know that MSNBC gets talking points directly from the White House.


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