WASHINGTON -- Top Jewish Democratic senators pressed AIPAC to back the new START arms reduction treaty with Russia.
Four Jewish groups already backed the Senate ratification of the treaty as a means of cajoling Russia into isolating Iran. Another has suggested that it could prove helpful, and one group opposed it.
The American Israel Public Affairs Committee rarely backs such initiatives publicly, but what's been notable in this case is that it has not taken a position behind the scenes either.
The treaty is "an opportunity to improve relations with Russia, a nation that has provided considerable support for US-led efforts to pressure Iran," Sens. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Carl Levin (D-Mich.) wrote AIPAC director Howard Kohr in a letter Tuesday that was obtained and published by Politico. "Last spring, Russia voted in favor of the UN 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."
Schumer has ambitions of becoming his party's leader in the Senate; Levin chairs the Senate Armed Services Committee.
The decision by a handful of GOP senators to block START came after the election, in which the Democrats lost the US House of Representatives to the Republicans.