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Expecting “headwinds,” AIPAC sets Iran as agenda for its activists

by Jonah Lowenfeld

March 2, 2014 | 9:17 am

AIPAC began its annual policy conference on Mar. 2 in Washington, D.C. Photo courtesy Twitter @daniedol

The American-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), which began its annual policy conference on Sunday morning in Washington, D.C., will lobby Senators and Congressional representatives this week to increase the pressure on Iran.

But considering that some Senators backing a bill designed to do just that decided last month to delay an immediate vote on the legislation, the 14,000 AIPAC activists who will make lobbying visits to the Hill on Tuesday morning were told to expect resistance from elected officials.

“On the hill, you may meet some headwinds,” AIPAC CEO Howard Kohr said at the conference’s opening plenary on Sunday. “You may hear, ‘It’s time to stand down, now’s not the time for this conversation.’”

From Kohr’s remarks on Sunday, it seemed that the pro-Israel activists would nonetheless urge congress to act sooner rather than later, even as representatives from the United States and other western powers continue the ongoing negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program.

“We need to make our case now because we need to stop Iran now,” Kohr said.

Even as he forcefully argued in favor of maintaining the pressure that international sanctions have put upon Iran, Kohr expressed qualified hope that negotiations would succeed in convincing the Iranian regime to agree to a dismantling of its nuclear program so complete “that there is no pathway forward to nuclear weapons capability.”

“We want to see negotiations succeed,” Kohr said, “Failure is not foreordained.”

As has been the case at every recent AIPAC policy conference, efforts to stop Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon are expected to feature prominently in the addresses by speakers here at DC’s convention center. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is set to speak on Tuesday; Secretary of State John Kerry will address the conference tomorrow; Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew will appear at the plenary on Sunday night.

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