The U.S. media have been sadly incurious about the origins of yesterday’s unprecedented Open Letter of 47 Republicans to the Iranian leadership seeking to block the president’s likely deal with Iran. The press has portrayed the letter as the work of Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton, a 37-year-old freshman senator so new to the limelight that the New York Times got his name wrong on first impression. But as a Times commenter writes, “Does anyone really believe the ‘freshman senator from Arkansas’ wrote the letter? No.”
The media are all over the unprecedented nature of the letter — which informs Iranian hardliners that Obama’s likely deal with Iran is a “mere executive agreement.” Chris Matthews and Chris Hayes and Michael Steele on MSNBC last night all expressed outrage or surprise. Paul Waldman at the Washington Post calls the letter “stunning” and “appalling.” But apart from a passing reference to neocons from Matthews, no one is looking under the hood.
I don’t know who wrote the letter, but I can tell you whose fingerprints are on it: the only folks who are supporting it publicly, the hard-right Israel lobby. Even as Cotton himself splutters on national television, rightwing lobby groups are the main voices out there defending the letter.
Like Bill Kristol of the Emergency Committee for Israel:
Cotton open letter: “Just so you know, we’re a constitutional democracy. Congress (or next president) has a say.” Dem response: Hysteria.
J Street’s Dylan Williams fingers Bill Kristol for writing the letter:
Who gave @SenTomCotton & others the awful idea for the Iran letter? Seems like Sarah Palin-for-VP-level bad advice doesn’t it @BillKristol ?
There’s a reason for Williams’s suspicion. Kristol’s Emergency Committee for Israel gave Tom Cotton nearly $1 million in his race for the Senate just five months ago, Eli Clifton reported. “Cotton received $960,250 in supportive campaign advertising in the last month.” (Thanks to Kay24 in comments).
Cotton also got $165,000 from Elliott Management Paul Singer’s hedge fund. Singer is the billionaire who is trying to stop Obama’s Iran talks (Clifton’s reporting again). He funds the Israel Project too– Josh Block’s efforts.
Josh Block has been standing up for the letter on Twitter. And the rightwing Israel Project offered support for the letter in an email last night:
Many analysts believe that without congressional approval, if a final deal with Iran is reached, it will not outlast President Barack Obama’s tenure as President of the United States. Without congressional involvement, the Obama administration would strike a deal with Iran through executive action which could signal to the Iranians that the “deal would be with the President alone,” writes Harvard Law School Professor Jack Goldsmith. He continues, “The bottom line, then, is that any deal struck by President Obama with Iran will probably appear to the Iranians to be, at best, short-term and tenuous. And so we can probably expect, at best, only a short-term and tenuous commitment from Iran in return.”When it comes to the Iran negotiations, the Obama administration says that they only see arole for Congress when it comes to sanctions. If a final agreement is reached, they will eventually look to Congress for the lifting of sanctions. The White House said that Congress has had a role to play when it has drafted and passed the sanctions legislation that President Obama subsequently signed into law. The White House does not believe that an agreement with Iran over its nuclear program would require congressional approval.
The letter has gotten support from David Frum, the former Bush aide who wrote of taking on Saddam Hussein, “It’s victory or Holocaust.” On twitter:
“Time after time, Obama has told Congress to go to hell. Now Congress is telling Obama to go to hell.”
Josh Block used to work at AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, and is sometimes thought to speak for AIPAC. AIPAC is staying silent, while pushing further sanctions on Iran.
Nothing happens on Capitol Hill related to Israel unless and until Howard Kohr (AIPAC chief) wants it to happen. Nothing.
What network is behind this letter? People have a right to know. The media should be sending reporters out to dig into these connections. Imagine if the Koch Brothers were pushing some initiative on states’ rights or abortion. Would the media be so incurious? No. The scandal of the Netanyahu speech and the efforts by Israel to derail US negotiations with Iran has surely exposed the workings of the Israel lobby to the eyes of the American public to an unprecedented degree. But the media have to do more.