Is the Emergency Committee for Israel going soft on Iran?

Despite the fact that the administration appears to have the votes to confirm Chuck Hagel as Secretary of Defense, activist groups like the Emergency Committee for Israel (ECI) continue to pound away at a brick wall at Hagel’s dovishness towards Iran.  In essence, ECI’s ads and rhetoric argue forcefully that both Hagel and Obama are not ...

By , a professor of international politics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University.

Despite the fact that the administration appears to have the votes to confirm Chuck Hagel as Secretary of Defense, activist groups like the Emergency Committee for Israel (ECI) continue to pound away at a brick wall at Hagel's dovishness towards Iran.  In essence, ECI's ads and rhetoric argue forcefully that both Hagel and Obama are not fully committed to defending Israel by revving up for an attack on Iran now

Don't take my word for it, though -- here's one of ECI's ads:

Despite the fact that the administration appears to have the votes to confirm Chuck Hagel as Secretary of Defense, activist groups like the Emergency Committee for Israel (ECI) continue to pound away at a brick wall at Hagel’s dovishness towards Iran.  In essence, ECI’s ads and rhetoric argue forcefully that both Hagel and Obama are not fully committed to defending Israel by revving up for an attack on Iran now

Don’t take my word for it, though — here’s one of ECI’s ads:

Now, as I’ve blogged before, this kind of interest group campaign is a waste of money if the goal is a partisan effort to weaken Obama and bolster the GOP.  What if the effort is sincere, however?  In other words,  if groups like ECI care only about eliminating the Iranian threat as soon as possible, is this their best expenditure of resources? 

Based on Sheera Frakel’s McClatchy story from yesterday, I’d say the answer is no.  Clearly, the greatest threat to a softening Western posture towards Iran comes from… dare I say it… Israel itself!!!

Israeli intelligence officials now estimate that Iran won’t be able to build a nuclear weapon before 2015 or 2016, pushing back by several years previous assessments of Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

Intelligence briefings given to McClatchy over the last two months have confirmed that various officials across Israel’s military and political echelons now think it’s unrealistic that Iran could develop a nuclear weapons arsenal before 2015. Others pushed the date back even further, to the winter of 2016.

"Previous assessments were built on a set of data that has since shifted," said one Israeli intelligence officer, who spoke to McClatchy only on the condition that he not be identified. He said that in addition to a series of "mishaps" that interrupted work at Iran’s nuclear facilities, Iranian officials appeared to have slowed the program on their own.

Oh.  My.  God.  We already knew that there was a fifth column of Israelis who were pooh-poohing the notion of a pre-emptive strike on Iran.  Now, with this intelligence walkback, the credibility of the Israeli national security establishment has taken a pretty serious hit

If ECI and like-minded groups really think that Iran poses an existential threat and that the time to act is now, then I think they’re targeting their resources at the wrong country.  Trying to convert Rand Paul to their point of view isn’t enough, and opposing Hagel is fruitless at this point.  No, only a full-throated ECI campaign in Israel itself will be sufficient to prevent Jerusalem from falling into the appeasement camp.  And if they fail to redirect their activities, then I have no choice but to conclude that ECI has gone soft on Iran as well. 

Am I missing anything? 

Daniel W. Drezner is a professor of international politics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, where he is the co-director of the Russia and Eurasia Program. Twitter: @dandrezner

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