The Corner

Dems Pressuring AIPAC to Support New START

Democrats recently gained some new allies in their fight to get the new START treaty ratified: Jewish organizations.

The Anti-Defamation League, the National Jewish Democratic Council, and the American Council for World Jewry have all publicly announced their support for START this month.  All three organizations based their backing on the importance of Russian cooperation in thwarting Iran’s nuclear ambitions. 

Now Democrat senators Chuck Schumer (N.Y.) and Carl Levin (Mich.) have written a letter to AIPAC, which has so far remained conspicuously silent on START, urging the organization to announce support for the new treaty. The letter, posted online by Politico’s Ben Smith, was written to AIPAC executive director Howard Kohr. Some excerpts:

We write to ask AIPAC to publicly support the immediate ratification of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START). The New START treaty is vital to our own national security, and to that of our close ally, Israel. …

The treaty is also an opportunity to improve relations with Russia, a nation that has provided considerable support for U.S.-led efforts to pressure Iran. Last spring, Russia voted in favor of the U.N. Security Council resolution to impose sanctions on Iran. This fall, Russian President Medvedev agreed not to fulfill a previously agreed upon sale of air defense missiles to Iran. There are many economic and geopolitical incentives for Russia to do business with Iran; their decision not to do so in these instances is a strong testament to the importance of the U.S.-Russia relationship. Like you, we are committed to preventing Tehran from acquiring a nuclear weapon capability, and we share your deep concern for the threat a nuclear Iran would pose to the United States and Israel. As a leading voice in favor of crippling sanctions on the Iranian regime, AIPAC cannot afford to stand on the sidelines as the Senate debates the New START treaty.

Foreign Policy’s Josh Rogin reported last week that the White House has also been urging Jewish organizations to publicly support the new START:

The White House has been in contact with pro-Israel and pro-Jewish organizations, encouraging them to be vocal about their support for the New START treaty, and warning them that the failure of the treaty could have negative implications for the drive to halt Iran’s nuclear program.

 “Certainly we’ve been in touch with all sorts of different groups saying if you feel strongly about the treaty, we hope your voice will be heard,” a senior administration official said when asked about whether Jewish groups had been contacted. The official added that the administration had not asked anyone to contact lawmakers.

AIPAC declined to comment on the organization’s position on the new START treaty.

Katrina Trinko — Katrina Trinko is a political reporter for National Review. Trinko is also a member of USA TODAY’S Board of Contributors, and her work has been published in various media outlets ...

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