AIPAC raps US handling of Iran nukes

Voicing rare criticism against the Bush administration.

sharon, AIPAC 298.88 (photo credit: GPO [file])
sharon, AIPAC 298.88
(photo credit: GPO [file])
As the US administration is calling on the world to increase pressure on Iran, the pro-Israeli lobby American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) is voicing rare criticism against the administration's dealing with Iran's nuclear problem. In a statement published in Washington Wednesday, AIPAC slammed the US administration for agreeing not to refer the Iranian nuclear issue to the UN Security Council during last week's meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) board of governors. "We disagree with these decisions and are concerned that these efforts will facilitate Iran's quest for nuclear weapons, hampering the diplomatic effort to stop Iran before it is too late. This poses a severe danger to the United States and our allies, and puts America and our interests at risk," AIPAC's statement said. It is extremely unusual for the pro-Israel lobby to openly confront the administration's policy, though it is not uncommon for the organization to lobby behind the scenes in an attempt to change US policy on issues concerning Israel. The reason behind the public announcement is the frustration in the pro-Israel camp in the US from the administration's willingness to allow another round of diplomatic Russian negotiations with Iran before bringing the referral to the UN to a vote at the IAEA. "Last week's decision allowed Iran to win a critical round in its game of cat and mouse with the international community," the AIPAC statement added. The lobby claims that the US was wrong in not using the majority it has in the IAEA to push for a UN referral and that the administration's agreement to back the Russian proposal was a mistake. The Russians have suggested that Iran is allowed to convert uranium, but insist that the process be done outside Iran and under supervision. This is seen in the pro-Israeli circles in the US as an unnecessary concession to Iran and as a prize given to Teheran after breaking the Paris agreement. The US has agreed to give the Russian proposal a chance before pushing for a UN referral, mainly due to the American wish to see a wide consensus in the IAEA in favor of referring Iran to the Security Council. Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns lashed out at the Iranian regime Wednesday and called for a strict isolation of Iran because of its nuclear program, support of terror and poor human rights record. "President Ahmadinejad is digging a hole for himself and he appears determined to keep digging," Burns said at a speech in the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies in Washington. Burns said it was time for the international community to put more pressure on Iran, to make clear to the Iranian leadership that there was a price they had to pay for pursuing the path of nuclear development and backing terror. Yet Burns refrained from directly addressing the possibility of military action against Iran, either by the US or Israel, and said that the administration is focusing on intense diplomatic efforts. In his speech, Burns also revealed that Iran is holding information for casting and machining enriched uranium metal into hemispheres, "information which clearly applies only to nuclear weapons," according to Burns.