- - Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Robert W. Merry’s op-ed piece “Obama may buck the Israel lobby on Iran” (Commentary, Jan. 1) echoes conspiracy theories purporting to explain how Jerusalem controls Washington’s foreign policy. This is disappointing coming from a staffer of a well-regarded journal such as the National Interest.

Among other things, Mr. Merry writes that new economic sanctions against Iran proposed by Democratic Sens. Robert Menendez of New Jersey and Charles E. Schumer of New York, and Republican Sen. Mark Kirk of Illinois are “designed to sabotage Obama’s delicate negotiations with Iran” over Iran’s suspected nuclear-weapons program. How, given that they would not take effect unless the six-month interim agreement (yet to be signed) between the United States and other nations and Iran fails to lead to a mutually satisfactory final deal?

Mr. Merry also claims “the legislation contains language that would commit the United States to military action on behalf of Israel if Israel initiates action against Iran.” No, it doesn’t. Notwithstanding the “cleverly worded” provisions Mr. Merry claims to find in the proposed bill, the United States has no mutual-defense pact with Israel like it has with South Korea and other countries. That’s in part because the Israelis have not asked for one, just so that their own security decisions aren’t entangled with America’s.

Mr. Merry says congressional support for Israel “is the product of substantial campaign contributions and threats posed to re-election prospects” if legislators don’t toe the pro-Israel line. More likely, support on the Hill for Israel against sworn enemies like Iran’s ayatollah-led Islamic republic reflects public opinion polls that consistently show Americans heavily favoring the Jewish state against its adversaries. And why shouldn’t Americans make campaign contributions to candidates who reflect their own views? That’s the way our system is supposed to work.


Mr. Merry favorably cites a blogger who claims an Israeli strike against Iran’s nuclear-weapons program would be “acting against international law.” Self-defense is the first responsibility of every country, recognized in the U.N. Charter. Iranian leaders repeatedly have called Israel “a cancer” that must be “eliminated” — genocidal threats that themselves violate the charter and international law.

Perhaps there is a worthwhile op-ed to be penned criticizing the Menendez-Schumer-Kirk proposal, but if so, Mr. Merry hasn’t written it.

ERIC ROZENMAN
Washington director
Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America
Washington