Diplomacy

Controversy Erupts Over Accusations Against Pro-Sanctions U.S. Lawmakers, Analysts

Recent days have witnessed something of a rhetorical campaign questioning the motivations and even loyalties of analysts and lawmakers pushing for new sanctions against Iran.

Weeks ago the administration line – that sanctions had coerced Iranian leaders into coming to the negotiating table against their will and that new sanctions would derail ongoing talks because the negotiations required good will from both sides – had been hammered by journalists for inconsistency. The White House subsequently sought to insulate its position in part by beginning to accuse proponents of new sanctions of undermining American interests and putting the country on a path to war. The allegations were echoed by Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah.

Last summer 400 members of the House of Representatives, including 178 Democrats, voted to impose new sanctions. Recent days have seen bipartisan efforts in the Senate to advance legislation.

Yesterday State Department Spokesperson Jen Psaki was asked at State’s daily Q+A whether Foggy Bottom thought those lawmakers were unconcerned with U.S. interests:

QUESTION: When members of Congress – the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee pushes for the tough sanctions that the world community has in place against Iran, is he not concerned about U.S. national interests? How would you describe what it is that he has been pushing? We’re talking about Senator Menendez.

Psaki responded “I’m not characterizing one way or the other.”

The back-and-forth came amid more explicit public statements describing U.S. analysts and lawmakers pushing for new pressure on the Islamic republic as operating at Israel’s behest. Al-Monitor foreign policy journalist Laura Rozen last Friday claimed on Twitter that Mark Dubowitz, executive director of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, had been “picked [by Israel] to push their talking points.” The New York Times on Saturday described Americans pushing for sanctions as being “urged on by [Israeli] Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.”

[Photo: U.S. Department of State / YouTube]