More than 11,000 Christian supporters of Israel contacted every U.S. senator in less than 24 hours to demand that they stop President Barack Obama from “killing serious action on Iran.”
Obama vowed on Tuesday night during his State of the Union address to veto any new legislation that levels greater economic sanctions on Iran, which is set to receive billions of dollars in direct relief under the recently inked interim nuclear accord.
Senators have been working since late last year to pass new conditional sanctions on Iran. The bill, which has 59 co-sponsors, would harshly penalize Tehran if it fails to ramp down its nuclear program and negotiate in good faith towards a final deal.
Christians United For Israel (CUFI) is publicly pushing to build a veto-proof majority of 67 senators.
“President Obama is killing serious on Iran. Don’t let him!” declared an email sent Thursday afternoon to supporters of CUFI, a more than one million member strong pro-Israel organization.
“We know the odds are long,” read the email to supporters. “It’s not easy to persuade a Democrat-controlled Senate to ignore the pressure of a Democratic president. But we are determined to speak out at this critical hour.”
More than 11,000 of the groups supporters had written to senators by early Friday morning, and CUFI officials expect thousands more to follow suit.
In a somewhat unusual move for mainstream pro-Israel groups, the CUFI form letter pointedly accuses the White House and its allies of pressuring and bullying supporters of new sanctions.
“Time is short. The stakes are high,” the letter states. “Please don't be bullied or pressured into silence.”
The letter also states that those many of who oppose the new sanctions measure “simply haven’t read it.”
“Those who claim that [the new sanctions measure] will scuttle the deal reached in Geneva simply haven't read it,” the letter says. “This bill imposes additional sanctions only if Iran violates its commitments under that agreement or attacks us."
Those activists who signed onto the letter also vow to monitor daily every senator who has not yet publicly supported the sanctions bill.
“If you have not already co-sponsored this legislation, I ask that you do so immediately,” the letter states. “I will be checking daily to see if your name is among those courageous leaders who refuse to ignore the difficult reality we're facing as Iran takes its final steps towards building the bomb.”
One senior Senate aide whose office had been contacted by CUFI members said that the email blitz is being noticed by senators and their staffs.
“The impact is being felt and heard,” the source said. “Senators need to know there will be consequences if they surrender to Iran.”
Nearly 3,000 of the email appeals have been sent to four key Democratic senators still opposing the bill: Sens. Bill Nelson (D., Fla.), Mark Udall (R., Colo.), Amy Klobuchar (D., Minn.), and Al Franken (D., Minn.).
Nearly 1,000 more emails have gone out to Sens. Kristen Gillibrand (D., N.Y.) and Joe Manchin (D., W.Y.), both of whom originally cosponsored the legislation but have balked on the bill in recent weeks following pressure from the White House.
CUFI executive director David Brog said that top leaders of the group were shocked and outraged when Obama threw down the gauntlet on the sanctions bill during his high-profile speech.
“We had 214 CUFI leaders from across the country in San Antonio the night of President Obama's State of the Union,” Brog said. “These men and women speak for thousands back home. And one after the other they rose to criticize the president's veto threat.”
“The overwhelming sentiment was outrage at a president so committed to a failed policy that he is willing to disregard the will of the Congress and the American people in its pursuit,” Brog said.
Brog went on to criticize those senators who originally backed the bill but backed down in recent days.
“Shame on those senators who were wise enough to support this bill but who are weak enough to succumb to the president's pressure,” he said. “History will judge them most harshly.”