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Americans Say No to War with Iran: Will Washington Listen?

Sarah van Gelder's Blog



Read more of Sarah van Gelder's blog, on Iran and other issues:

Are Congressional Democrats Leading Us to War with Iran?

What Americans Want: National Health Insurance

Two weeks ago, I was alarmed to learn that congressional Democrats were sponsoring Resolution 362, which encourages what amounts to an act of war against Iran.

Today, there are more than 230 co-sponsors of the House resolution, but there is also growing mobilization to stop passage of Res. 362. What is especially stirring opposition is the provision that calls for:

"Prohibiting the export to Iran of all refined petroleum products; imposing stringent inspection requirements on all persons, vehicles, ships, planes, trains, and cargo entering or departing Iran; and prohibiting the international movement of all Iranian officials not involved in negotiating the suspension of Iran's nuclear program."
Implementing this would require a blockade, according to a letter from three retired Pentagon officials, and, unless sanctioned by a Security Council resolution, would constitute an act of war. The good news is that a growing outcry from the American people is causing some co-sponsors to have second thoughts, and the momentum for passage of the resolution may be weakening. Among them is Rep. Robert Wexler (D-FL), who says in a July 9 blog:
"Given my growing concerns regarding this resolution, including its failure to advocate for direct American engagement with Tehran and open language that could lead to a US blockade of Iran, I will lead an effort to make changes to this resolution before it comes to the Foreign Affairs committee for a vote."
Rep. Barney Frank of Massachusetts has gone one step further: "I'm all for stricter sanctions against Iran, but the blockade part goes too far," he told the Valley Advocate of Northampton, MA. "I'm going to call the sponsors and tell them I'm changing my vote."Rep. William Lacy Clay (D-MO) withdrew his co-sponsorship on July 9.The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, editorialized against the resolution on June 24:
"... we are casually giving our government the right to control Iran's borders using naval blockades. Might that be construed as an act of aggression? Only if we pay any mind to the rules set forth by the United Nations ... stating that such a unilateral blockade constitutes an act of war. So, are supporters of Res. 362 asleep at the wheel, or are they just anxious to drag us into another illegal war?"

This is a familiar discussion to those who watched the build-up to war in Iraq. This time, however, former secretaries of state from both Democratic and Republican administrations are on the same side. According to The Los Angeles Times, five of them—Colin Powell, Henry Kissinger, James Baker, Warren Christopher, and Madeleine Albright—agreed at a recent round-table discussion that it is time to open a dialogue with Iran. The outcry against an attack on Iran is already having an effect, and there are plans for more. United for Peace and Justice, for example, is organizing "Days of Action" across the U.S. July 19-21.

Sunset over Tehran. Photo by Abdi Sami
Sunset over Tehran. See more of the country in our photo diary of Rick Steves' trip to Iran.

What are the threats against Iran really about?
Despite what you may have read, this issue is not about nuclear proliferation—in fact an attack would increase the likelihood that Iran would acquire a nuclear weapon, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency Director General Mohamed ElBaradei. The Nobel Peace Prize winner told Al Arabiya television last month that if there was a military attack on Iran, he would resign:

"I don't believe that what I see in Iran today is a current, grave and urgent danger. If a military strike is carried out against Iran at this time ... it would make me unable to continue my work...A military strike, in my opinion, would be worse than anything possible. It would turn the region into a fireball ...If you do a military strike, it will mean that Iran, if it is not already making nuclear weapons, will launch a crash course to build nuclear weapons with the blessing of all Iranians, even those in the West."

It's also not about how much extra we are all paying for gasoline and oil as a result of our threats against Iran, although the National Security Network estimates that U.S. saber-rattling is already driving up prices by $30-$40 per barrel of oil. If threats turns into active conflict, oil prices will really take off.

The question now is whether we will pursue another illegal and disastrous war, which the American people—including Jewish Americans—don't want. Will we destroy more American lives and those of Iranians. (You can see a slide show of life in Iran as a reminder of the human beings who are in the crosshairs.)

We have a crucial choice before us: Will we continue a unilateral strategy of global domination? Or will we switch to a post-superpower strategy that can actually deal with the threats of nuclear proliferation, extreme poverty, and climate disruption. This is the option we explore in the Summer 2008 issue of YES! Magazine.

Will we continue spending billions on the military in order to control the world's declining fossil fuel resources and shipping channels (and to make sure our corporations have access to both)? Or will we invest those funds in the safe, clean, domestic sources of energy that can create jobs at home and power our future without compromising our moral standing, the stability of our climate, and human lives?

This is a critical choice point for all of us. And this time, we can't say we didn't see the consequences of our actions.


Sarah van Gelder is the Executive Editor of YES! Magazine. This article was written July 10, 2008.
Photo of Sarah van Gelder
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