POLITICS
01/27/2014 08:37 pm ET Updated Jan 27, 2014

AIPAC Reverses Course, Defends Debbie Wasserman Schultz In Iran Sanctions Dust-Up

AP

WASHINGTON -- Just two weeks ago, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee was going after Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) for not backing a controversial Iran sanctions bill. But a Monday report reveals the powerful lobbying group has quietly reversed course and is now defending its otherwise fierce pro-Israel ally.

The Washington Free Beacon first reported earlier this month that AIPAC was urging key supporters in South Florida to demand that Wasserman Schultz explain why she isn't supporting the sanctions bill pushed by Sens. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) and Mark Kirk (R-Ill.). AIPAC has been lobbying hard for the measure, despite warnings from the White House and foreign policy experts that it could upset a delicate, six-month agreement between Iran and six negotiating countries to curtail Iran's nuclear activities in exchange for relief from some existing sanctions.

HuffPost reported Jan. 15 that Wasserman Schultz, also the chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, spoke forcefully against the bill in a private meeting at the White House with about four dozen House Democrats.

But in a Jan. 24 letter obtained Monday by the Washington Free Beacon, AIPAC’s Southeastern states director, Mark Kleinman, issued a strong defense of Wasserman Schultz. The letter also claims the HuffPost story was "inaccurate," but doesn't say why.

“Friends, I wanted to forward a statement issued by AIPAC national board member Ike Fisher after the Huffington Post released an inaccurate article regarding AIPAC and Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz,” Kleinman wrote in the letter, before feeding into Fisher's comment: “Congresswoman Wasserman Schultz has a strong record of support for the U.S.-Israel relationship,” read Fisher’s statement. “She is a good friend of Israel and a close friend of AIPAC, and we look forward to our continued work together for many years to come.”

It's unclear what caused AIPAC to flip, though the sanctions bill appears to be losing momentum. AIPAC did not respond to a request for comment, nor did it respond to a request to explain why it told its members the HuffPost story was inaccurate.

A spokeswoman for Wasserman Schultz declined to comment.

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