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article imageOp-Ed: AIPAC calls for 'full court press' to support Obama on Syria

By Ken Hanly     Sep 4, 2013 in Politics
Washington - Discussion on Syria has switched from presenting evidence that a chemical weapon attack happened and that Assad was responsible for it, to Obama's decision to attack Syria and his vigorous efforts to sell his plan to the US Congress.
The flow of mainstream media discourse reveals how public perception is directed to what is considered important. For a few days there was a blitz to convince everyone that there was a chemical attack by Assad. A US intelligence assessment was released. Although there was much in the assessment that is doubtful and even contradictory, the discussion has moved on.
A good summary discussion of problems in the report can be found here and there is detail about some of the issues also here. One crucial aspect of the US case is reported to come from Israeli intelligence. which has long pressed the US to act against Syria. Israel itself has attacked Syria several times when it thought that missiles might be moving to Hezbollah.
Even though UN experts have not yet even released their report that will determine if there was a chemical attack and of what sort, Obama has decided that there was an attack and that Assad was responsible. Discussion now simply turns away from the issue of what happened and who was responsible to whether Obama can obtain support for his decision to attack from Congress.
Obama is holding extended briefings intended to convince members of Congress of his plan. However, he also has lobbyists on his side including the formidable pro-Israel American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). According to a senior official with AIPAC the group was mounting a "full court press" in support of Obama's resolution. The decision to actively lobby for the Syria strike is somewhat surprising in that in previous war resolutions, the group has not made lobbying in favor of them a priority. Even in the days after the 9/11 attacks AIPAC did not take a position on the subsequent authorization of military force against Al Qaeda. The emphasis has been on pressing for sanctions against Iran. Since Iran is a prime ally of Syria, support for the Obama resolution is related to this issue. Of course a great deal of AIPAC effort is devoted to obtaining US aid for Israel . On the Iran issue a senior AIPAC official said: “We see a direct link to this vote and dealing with the Iranian nuclear issue. Our view is that if this vote goes down, it will be devastating to American credibility and send a very clear message to Iran that they can press the accelerator on moving forward with their program. At this point Assad and Hezbollah are merely franchises for Iran.”
In a statement released Tuesday by AIPAC there is emphasis upon US interests and punishment for the use of chemical weapons: “AIPAC urges Congress to grant the president the authority he has requested to protect America’s national security interests and dissuade the Syrian regime’s further use of unconventional weapons. The civilized world cannot tolerate the use of these barbaric weapons, particularly against an innocent civilian population including hundreds of children. Simply put, barbarism on a mass scale must not be given a free pass.”
It is not exactly clear how US national security interests are crucially involved. Perhaps this is an oblique reference to Israeli attacks on Syria that are justified in terms of its security and national interests. There is a reference to Iran in another part of the AIPAC statement: " America’s allies and adversaries are closely watching the outcome of this momentous vote. This critical decision comes at a time when Iran is racing toward obtaining nuclear capability,Failure to approve this resolution would weaken our country’s credibility to prevent the use and proliferation of unconventional weapons and thereby greatly endanger our country’s security and interests and those of our regional allies.”
While AIPAC is hardly hiding its lobbying efforts on behalf of the Obama resolution, it would seem that the New York Times wants to downplay their participation. A Times article had this passage: " One administration official, who, like others, declined to be identified discussing White House strategy, called Aipac “the 800-pound gorilla in the room,” and said its allies in Congress had to be saying, “If the White House is not capable of enforcing this red line” against the catastrophic use of chemical weapons, “we’re in trouble.” " There were 11 later revisions of the article, and between versions five and six, the part about AIPAC and the 800-pound gorilla was removed. There is a discussion here with Robert Mackey of the Times who defends the decision.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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