By Michael Harris

Last Friday’s Op-Ed by Richard Ridenour (“Time to rethink AIPAC influence on U.S. policy”) grossly misrepresents the positions of AIPAC and Israel in determining American policy towards Iran. The question is how to best stop the Ayatollah’s drive towards nuclear weapons without having to resort to war. Sanctions are what brought Iran to the negotiating table, but the premature easing of sanctions has led to announcements from Iran that various components of their nuclear weapons program – the underground centrifuges at Fordo, the heavy water reactor at Arak, and their ICBM program – are now “red lines” and non-negotiable. Americans might want to ask themselves how any of these are part of a peaceful nuclear energy program.

Americans also might question whether they can trust a regime that has bankrolled and directed the Assad regime’s mass slaughter in Syria, and is the prime sponsor of international terrorism.

The proposed increased sanctions against Iran would only be put in place if the current diplomatic efforts fail.

It’s odd that Ridenour believes that increased sanctions against Iran would lead to war with “the whole Arab world.” Shi’ite Iran is not Arab; and the Gulf Arab Sunni states are also far more concerned about Iran than we are.

Ridenour appears far less concerned about Iran than about U.S. support for Israel – the only true democracy in the region, a country that shares American values of civil and religious freedom, and a country whose technological advances are both assisted by American aid and directly benefit Americans. The aid we provide to Israel is a small fraction of the money that we spend to station troops in Japan and Europe, and no American troops are used to help Israel defend itself against neighbors who have openly sought to destroy it.

It’s also worth noting that AIPAC isn’t a “Jewish lobby” – it’s a group of American citizens, Jewish and non-Jewish, who recognize the value of Israel as a strong American ally in a very dangerous region. And much of AIPAC’s influence derives from the broad and deep support for Israel in the US. It’s the only major issue upon which both Republicans and Democrats agree.

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Michael Harris is a resident of Novato.