WASHINGTON -- Last week, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the largest pro-Israel advocacy group in the United States, released a memo listing former military commanders opposed to the Iran nuclear deal. Among the luminaries was one not-so-recognizable name.
Unlike others on the AIPAC memo -- including former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Hugh Shelton, former NATO Supreme Allied Commander James Stavridis and former NSA Director Michael Hayden -- retired Adm. James Lyons hasn’t operated at the heights of political power. Instead, he has spent his time peddling dark conspiracy theories that probably explain why he doesn’t support the deal with Iran.
In particular, Lyons is of the firm belief that the Obama administration has been infiltrated by the Muslim Brotherhood. He stated this much back in January at the National Press Club, arguing that the group had penetrated “every one of our national security agencies, including our intelligence agencies.” At that same event, he referred to CIA Director John Brennan as a “Muslim convert.” Elsewhere, he said the Muslim Brotherhood has “carte blanche entry into the White House” and in effect has "become an effective cabinet member.”
But Lyons doesn’t believe the president has a pro-Sunni bias (which, were you to bend logic a certain way, could make him a tougher negotiator when it comes to Iran). Rather, he sees the Obama doctrine as firmly “anti-American, anti-Western, it's pro-Islamic, pro-Iranian and pro-Muslim Brotherhood.”
With allegiances like these, Lyons seems to think, it's no wonder Obama struck such a bad deal -- indeed, it’s a shock he pursued any concessions at all. “We guarantee Iran will have a nuclear weapon capability, and just as important, we guarantee they will have the most modern conventional weapons which could jeopardize our position in the Persian Gulf,” Lyons declared at a Times Square rally against the nuclear agreement.
And now, the disclaimers: Lyons is just one name on a list of six critics of a deal that appears to have more public detractors than supporters. The vast majority of these critics are well-intentioned and their concerns with the deal are substantive: a mix of fears that Iran will cheat on the new inspections regime and that it will fund terrorism with a sanctions-relief windfall.
But all of this makes it surprising AIPAC decided to put Lyons on its memo in the first place. The group is ramping up its campaign to kill the deal, while simultaneously positioning itself as not overtly calling for war with Iran. Having a conspiracy theorist who wants immediate air strikes associated with its campaign makes it seem less mainstream than it is.
A request for comment made to AIPAC was not immediately returned.
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