By Dmitriy Shapiro/JNS.org/Washington Jewish Week
Following a slow start mobilizing support to block bipartisan efforts in the Senate and House to place additional sanctions on Iran, opponents of new sanctions—backed by the White House— have organized to make their voices heard. By working behind the scenes, this bipartisan group may have been effective in stopping Congress from acting on sanctions legislation.
A letter to President Barack Obama drafted by U.S. Reps. Lloyd Doggett (D-TX) and David Price (D-NC) has been recently circulating on Capitol Hill. A final call to sign the message, titled “Give Diplomacy a Chance Letter to POTUS,” made the rounds of congressional offices Monday after being sent by Jackson Tufts, a military legislative assistant to Price.
The letter, which according to Anya Malkov, a legislative assistant to Doggett, was signed by “more than 90 members, including several Republicans,” opposes additional sanctions as detrimental to the diplomacy being wrought by Secretary of State John Kerry in the quest to prevent the development of a nuclear-armed Iran.
“We understand that there is no assurance of success and that, if talks break down or Iran reneges on pledges it made in the interim agreement, Congress may be compelled to act as it has in the past by enacting additional sanctions legislation,” reads one of the final drafts of the letter. “At present, however, we believe that Congress must give diplomacy a chance. A bill or resolution that risks fracturing our international coalition or, worse yet, undermining our credibility in future negotiations and jeopardizing hard-won progress toward a verifiable final agreement, must be avoided.”
According to Price’s office, the letter is supported by a number of organizations, and was initiated on the Hill sometime after the Jan. 28 State of the Union Address in which Obama vehemently criticized congressional action pushing for more sanctions. Organizations like J Street, Ploughshares, the Friends Committee on National Legislation, Win Without War, and Americans for Peace Now are among those mobilizing their supporters in favor of the letter and against harsher Iran sanctions in general.
When contacted with questions about J Street’s involvement with the letter, a spokesman for the organization told JNS.org that the group would not be making public comments until the letter is finalized.
Another early supporter of the letter was U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN), a Muslim legislator whose office is rumored to have helped circulate the letter to other offices.
“A large number of House Democrats are unified against actions that could undermine diplomacy,” Ellison said in a statement to JNS.org. “Negotiations with Iran are complex and we may not reach a final agreement in exactly six months, but we’re the closest we’ve ever been to preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.”
Signatories to the letter also include Jewish members of Congress with known pro-Israel voting records. Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) was one of the leaders in the effort. U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth (D-KY) …read more