The Iranian lobby in Washington has completely hijacked the Democratic Party, making its officials give statements on Iran that are irrelevant to unfolding events. Whatever the situation with Iran, the Democrats now have one-size-fits-all solution: Restore the 2015 nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
If anything, the JCPOA shows that it never brought the Iranian nuclear program to its end, but rather put it on hold. Whenever Iran pleases, it can reactivate its program, as Tehran has openly demonstrated. The deal effectively froze Iran’s nukes, but only until the expiration of sunset clauses, which would lift several restrictions on advanced nuclear activity.
The Iranian lobby in Washington has managed to make the nuclear issue so central that it started using it to deflect attention away from all other issues, first and foremost Iran’s “destabilizing activity in the region,” a phrase that former US President Barack Obama coined, but seems to have been long forgotten in Democratic quarters.
In Democratic presidential debates, frontrunner US Senator Bernie Sanders has repeatedly express his distaste of world tyrants, from Russia to Nicaragua. Sanders, however, has never mentioned Iran alongside the regimes he detests. When it comes to Iran, Bernie has only one answer: Restore the nuclear deal.
In the New Hampshire debate, all Democratic presidential candidates responded that they would not have killed Iran Revolutionary Guards Corps General Qassem Soleimani in Baghdad, except for the only candidate who had fought in wars, Pete Buttigieg. Buttigieg said that he would not rule out killing Soleimani without having access to the classified intelligence that US President Donald Trump had access to.
In the meantime, pro-mullah lobbyists in Washington have managed to paint whatever negative statements against the Iranian regime as American warmongering, further narrowing the debate. The only way forward with Iran is restoration of the deal, and anything else drags America into a quagmire worse than Iraq’s, the lobbyists claim.
With Iranian lobbyists breathing down their necks, Democrats and the mainstream media close to them, have yet to regret their past prophecies that were never fulfilled. After Trump ordered the drone strike that killed Soleimani, Democrats insisted war with Iran was inevitable. War never happened, and the Democrats never apologized for their erroneous prediction.
Major US media outlets close to Democrats also insisted that Baghdad had asked Washington to withdraw its forces fighting ISIS in Iraq and Syria. No such thing ever happened. In the absence of the Sunni and Kurdish blocs, Iraqi Shia lawmakers could barely obtain a quorum, and then only voted on a resolution - not a legislation - recommending that Baghdad requests the withdrawal of US troops. A few days later, Iraq’s president, speaker and prime minister issued a joint statement in which they proclaimed Iraqi neutrality. A week later, Iraqi President Barham Saleh met with President Donald Trump and never brought up the troop withdrawal issue.
Democratic politicking went as far as meeting with Iranian officials. On the sidelines of the annual Munich Defense Conference that he was attending, Democratic Senator Chris Murphy agreed to sit with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif. The meeting was arranged by Iranian US lobby, and was exploited by Iranian media, which tried to depict Trump’s hawkish position on Iran as unrepresentative of America.
The meeting backfired, however, and Murphy was forced to disclose — in an article — all that he and Zarif had discussed, probably in a bid to show that he, and the Democrats, were not conspiring with Iran against America. The readout showed Democratic amateurism in foreign affairs, and suggested that that Tehran was using them as useful idiots.
According to his article, Murphy wanted to make sure that Iran’s reaction to Soleimani’s killing was concluded with its missile attack on a US base in Iraq, and wanted to relay to his Iranian interlocutor that America will respond forcefully against any Iranian targeting of US troops. Murphy also said that he took the meeting because communication minimizes the risk of confrontation.
However, any beginner in the field of foreign affairs knew that, after Soleimani’s death and Iran’s theatrical response, Iranian attacks across the region subsided and the regime also stopped harassing tankers in the Gulf. Even pro-Iranian Iraqi militias have cut their attacks on US targets in Iraq to a minimum and Iran is unlikely to repeat its direct attack on Saudi Arabian oil facilities. By killing Soleimani, Trump restored the long shattered deterrence with Iran, only Murphy and the Democrats — consumed by their partisan politics — have been unable to read the new situation.
It is understandable that, like the National Rifle Association (NRA) and other networks, the Iranian lobby does buy members of Congress, especially in districts where some Iranian-Americans confuse their love of Iran with their support of the regime. Yet it is regrettable that on an issue of such national importance, the Democrats are clearly and callously using Iran as part of politicking, not policy.
Illustration by Steven Castelluccia
Hussain Abdul-Hussain is an Iraqi-Lebanese columnist and writer. He is the Washington bureau chief of Kuwaiti daily al-Rai and a former visiting fellow at Chatham House in London. He tweets @hahussain.