By Patrick Goodenough | October 14, 2016 | 4:28 AM EDT
Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and President Obama meet at the White House. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak, File)
(CNSNews.com) – Weeks before the Iran nuclear deal was finalized last summer, a former U.S. ambassador reportedly told a senior Hillary Clinton campaign adviser he was struck by “the depth of antipathy and distrust of President Obama” he encountered among Israeli officials and former officials across the political spectrum, who viewed the president as “‘weak,’ ‘pro-Muslim,’ and ‘anti-Israel.’”
The observation is contained in one of a series of emails purported sent by Ambassador Stuart Eizenstat to Clinton campaign adviser Jake Sullivan, among a batch of leaked Clinton campaign-related emails released by Wikileaks late last week and early this week.
“I was struck in my week in Israel, not only among Israeli officials, but among my friends across the political spectrum (most are former officials) and apolitical relatives, at the depth of antipathy and distrust of President Obama, as ‘weak,’ ‘pro-Muslim,’ and ‘anti-Israel,’” says the email, dated June 28, 2015.
Many of the purported emails from Eizenstat to Sullivan contained advice on how Clinton should respond to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) nuclear deal with Iran, and the troubled Israel-U.S. relationship.
Eizenstat, who served in President Bill Clinton’s administration in various capacities including that of ambassador to the European Union, is co-chair of the Jewish People Policy Institute of Jerusalem, an independent think tank.
Reached by phone on Thursday, he declined to comment on the substance of the emails, or the guidance to the campaign contained in them.
“I’m not going to get into the advice,” he said. “It says what it says, and that’s all I can say. I really don’t want to comment except to say, it is what it is.
Ambassador Stuart Eizenstat served as ambassador to the European Union, deputy secretary of the Treasury, and in other posts in the Clinton administration. (Screengrab: YouTube)
On the leak itself, Eizenstat said that “it seems to be part of the Russian intrusion into our election and in that sense it’s unfortunate.” He had “no way of knowing” whether the emails had been altered or tampered with.
Eizenstat’s views on the JCPOA, various emails show, included some of the criticisms raised by opponents of the deal in Israel and the United States, such as concerns that it “does not cover Iran’s ballistic missile program, which would not exist if Iran simply wanted a civilian nuclear program,” that Iran will be “unconstrained” after a 10-15 year expiration period, and that sanctions easing “will transfer billions to Iran and enhance its funding for terrorism and its efforts to gain hegemony in the region.”
His advice to Clinton, via Sullivan, was that she endorse the agreement negotiated by her successor, Secretary of State John Kerry – but not too enthusiastically, and that in doing so, she take a tougher stance than the Obama administration.
“Hillary cannot oppose the [Iran] agreement given her position as the President’s Secretary of State …” said a June 22, 2015 email addressed to Sullivan.
“But she can and should point out concerns with it,” it said. “More broadly, she should appear more muscular [in] her approach than the President’s.”
The email warned that the nuclear deal “could well be a voting issue for many moderates in the Jewish community.”
“The mainstream organized leadership will almost certainly oppose the deal, along with Israel and all the Republican candidates, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States, and perhaps Egypt.”
‘Being seen trying to have it both ways’
An earlier email, sent from Eizenstat’s account to Sullivan’s on March 3, 2015, suggested that Clinton be generally supportive of the JCPOA, but that she also indicate “that Congress should pass additional sanctions after an agreement that could be imposed by a future President following the 10-15 year expiration period of the agreement, if Iran seeks a ‘breakout’ at that point.”
“In other words, one major flaw in the emerging agreement is that Iran would be free of constraints after the period. She should take the position that unless Iran radically changes its posture over this period of time, the U.S. should never allow Iran to become a nuclear weapons state, as North Korea is now,” it continued.
“This position would be supportive of the Obama Administration’s efforts, but would signal a tougher position on what a post-agreement world should look like.”
An email sent from Eizenstat’s account to Sullivan’s in early July 2015 expressed concern about the potential impact Clinton’s response to the JCPOA could have on her campaign.
“I am very concerned that a complete embrace of this deal, without any expression of reservations, will leave her open to serious attack not just from Republicans, but from many Democrats …” it said.
The response from Sullivan’s account, a day later, said, “Stu – will discuss this with her. I acknowledge the risk you point out, but I also worry about her being seen trying to have it both ways.”
Days later concern seemed to be growing that Clinton would not sufficiently couch her response to the deal with qualifications and assurances of support to allies.
“I am very concerned about her loss of Jewish and moderate support, without the kind of statement I assumed would be forthcoming,” Sullivan was told.
Several of the earlier emails had offered advice on the wording of a draft Clinton statement being prepared for release on the day of the JCPOA announcement.
In one exchange, caution was advised about a portion of the text that contrasted the Obama administration’s approach to that of its predecessor.
The draft read in part: “Today’s agreement is the culmination of an effective strategy executed over many years. By the end of the Bush administration, Iran was rapidly expanding its nuclear centrifuge capacity despite unilateral American sanctions and ineffective saber rattling.
“The Obama administration took a different approach, working with Congress and our allies and partners around the world. As Secretary of State, I logged tens of thousands of miles and twisted a lot of arms – especially in Moscow and Beijing – to build a global coalition to impose the most crippling sanctions in history against Tehran. That unprecedented pressure shattered Iran’s economy, halted the progress of its nuclear program, and forced its leaders to the table …”
An email sent from Eizenstat’s account to Sullivan’s on June 28, 2015 urged caution about that wording: “NB. BE CAREFUL THEY HAVE SUBSTANTIALLY INCREASED THE NUMBER OF CENTRIFUGES AND AMOUNT OF ENRICHED URANIUM SINCE OBAMA TOOK OFFICE.”
The statement that was eventually released by Clinton on July 14, 2015 – the day the JCPOA was finalized – was far more tempered, dropping the reference to the Bush administration and using far less forceful language in describing the results of the Obama administration’s sanctions.
“Today’s agreement is the culmination of a sustained strategy of pressure and engagement executed over many years,” the statement said. “As Secretary of State, I logged tens of thousands of miles and twisted a lot of arms to build a global coalition to impose the most crippling sanctions in history. That unprecedented pressure delivered a blow to Iran’s economy and gave us leverage at the negotiating table …”
(As CNSNews.com has reported, most of the increase in the number of Iran’s centrifuges occurred under Obama, despite administration suggestions to the contrary.)