Thursday, June 26, 2008

Are Congressional Democrats Leading Us to War with Iran?

Until recently, the power struggle within the Bush administration over whether to attack Iran seemed to be going badly for the hawks. Their disastrous record in Iraq coupled with flimsy arguments for attacking Iran meant they were gaining little support. But now it appears congressional Democrats may be riding to the rescue of those pushing for war.

In the fall of 2007, top Bush administration officials began stoking up the rhetoric about the danger of Iran and its nuclear weapons program. But then the National Intelligence Estimate came out showing that efforts to develop nuclear weapons were dropped in 2003, in large part because of international pressure. Wow -- diplomacy does work!

Claims that Iran was arming insurgents fell apart due to flimsy evidence -- weapons that were supposedly supplied by the Iranian government appear to have been purchased on the open market or acquired through means other than official Iranian support.

So with the case for attacking Iran in tatters, why are congressional Democrats taking up the cause?

House Resolution 362, sponsored by Rep. Gary Ackerman, a New York Democrat, is moving quickly through the House. The resolution urges the Bush administration to prohibit the export to Iran of refined petroleum products, impose "stringent inspection requirements on all persons, vehicles, ships, planes, trains, and cargo entering or departing Iran," and to prohibit all Iranian officials not involved in negotiating the suspension of Iran's nuclear program from travel outside the country.

Imposing "stringent inspection requirements" would amount to a naval blockade, many believe, and thus constitute an act of war. At the very least, it would be perceived by Iranians of all political persuasions as a hostile act, further marginalizing moderate voices, unifying the country behind the most belligerent leaders, and bolstering the argument of those within Iran who are pushing for the rapid development of nuclear weapons as a defense against U.S. attack.

Why are 96 House Democrats (along with 111 House Republicans) co-sponsoring this resolution? Aren't these the Democrats who rode into majorities in both houses on public revulsion against war in the Middle East?

According to a recent story on CBS News, the answer seems to be a "full-court press" by the government of Israel and the American-Israeli lobby AIPAC. CBS ran the story Tuesday as Joint Chiefs Chairman Admiral Mike Mullen was on his way to the Middle East to confer with Israeli government officials. "Israelis are uncertain about what would be the policies of the next [U.S.] administration vis-à-vis Iran," CBS consultant Michael Oren says in the report.

Hence the rush to war?

There are alternatives. In his article in the foreign policy issue of YES! Magazine, Robert Naiman, of shows that we avert the killing and maiming of Iranian civilians, by talking with Iran instead of bombing their country. Doing that could avert taking Middle East mayhem to a new level. Even better, we could actually work with Iran in an international effort to bring stability back to the region.

Indeed, Iran offered to negotiate peace in 2003 -- including a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict (thereby recognizing Israel's right to exist), full cooperation with inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency, and pressure on Hizbollah to join the political process in Lebanon, rather than act outside the law. In exchange, Iran asked for a halt to hostile U.S. actions, an end to sanctions, and recognition of Iran's security interests. We ignored their overtures.

What about the nuclear threat? In my interview with George Shultz, secretary of state under Ronald Reagan, Shultz calls for the abolition of all nuclear weapons. He's not alone. His partners in this effort include former Senator Sam Nunn, William Perry, who was secretary of defense under Bill Clinton, and Henry Kissinger.

How much easier it would be to hold Iran accountable to the provisions of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty if we complied with it ourselves, including the provisions calling for the nuclear powers to reduce stockpiles eventually to zero. How extraordinary it would be to, as Shultz says, do "something that people feel good about."

Such a move would not be naive. In fact, it may be naive to think we can allow nuclear fuels and weapons to continue to fall into the hands of governments that are feeling cornered by U.S. threats and into the possession of stateless militants. Even during the time Shultz held office, when there were fewer fingers on fewer nuclear triggers, "there were more close calls than you were comfortable with," he told me. An international agreement to abolish nuclear weapons could bring these dangerous loose nukes back under control and eventually eliminate them.

The reduction in the world's nuclear stockpiles, combined with an assurance that the U.S. will not attack Iran unless Iran attacks another country, would be major steps towards building the foundations for peace and the restoration of stability and security for all parties in the Middle East. And it would begin repairing the damaged reputation of the United States, showing that we can be a leader for global peace and democracy.

Whatever your views on war with Iran, now may be your last best chance to speak out.

As has become the norm lately, the most sane policies are coming not out of Washington, DC, but out of state and local government. In her article in YES! with Ben Manski, Karen Dolan, of Cities for Peace, shows local governments setting a different direction on issues ranging from climate change to foreign policy; in her recent op-ed, she tells of the 32 U.S. mayors who have passed resolutions opposing war on Iran.

You can find additional resources on stopping the next war here.

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At 6:56 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Democrats are just as beholden to AIPAC as republicans but I think you're missing the bigger picture: This conflict really isn't about nukes. The "threat" posed to Israel by Iran is not a nuclear threat -- that's just the pretext. The real "threat" is that the US and Iran may start to get along, thereby undermining Israel's strategic value and ambitions. After all, if the US starts to get along with a large, strategically-located nation of 70 million consumers, who needs Israel? Read Trita Parsi's book, Treacherous Alliance for more info.

Evidence: Iran has repeatedly made nuclear compromise offers that would address any real concern over nuclear proliferation -- for example by opening its nuclear program to foreign participation, thereby ensuring that it can't secretly be diverted to make nukes. The offers from Iran have been ignored, all negotiations have been saddled with illogical preconditions, and goalposts moved. Why? Obviously, the Bush administration simply doesn't WANT to resolve this dispute with Iran -- they have another agenda. In the past, "Communism" was just as a justification for the 1952 coup in Iran. Today, "nuclear weapons" is the new fake justification.

At 7:43 PM, Anonymous St. Michael Traveler said...

Are we hostage of Israel foreign policy?

I thank you for your article "Are Congressional Democrats Leading US to War with Iran". I recently posted "Foreign Policy of President Bush and Iran" [] a parallel line of discussion about Iran.

Are we smart who we elect for our congressional representatives? Republicans and Democrats are often deluded during election and not smart. How could we be smart if we elect the same type of people over and over again? We are fooled by their appeasing words, the words we like to hear. For example, we don't like to kill and make wars on other nations. We are good people. We have problem housing, feeding, and educating our children. We tell our problems to our congressional representatives. But what do they do; authorize more war borrowing money from other nations expecting our children and grand children to pay for it. Is that smart?

Some congressional representatives, not from Iowa, have singed to vote for Bill Number: H.CON.RES.362. The bill authorizes Navy to blockade Iran in Persian Gulf; you know this is declaration of war.

Israeli government suggested the idea of blockade to President Bush during his recent visit to Israel. AIPAC (Israeli Lobby) urged our congressmen to vote for the blockade bill. The representatives got the message; yes they want to get reelected.

At 4:46 PM, Blogger workshop said...

Gee, it's nice to hear such good sense from Schultz and Kissinger. Too bad they were all out imperialists of the worst kind when they were in power. Maybe they'd have more credibility now if they hadn't played the imperial game full throttle themselves.

At 12:44 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree absolutely with anonymous' comment regarding Iran's true "threat" to Israel. When is America going to wake up and stop putting Israel's desires/demands before our own best interests?

Creating a military conflict with Iran is suicide for the U.S. We've already created an ongoing nightmare in both Iraq and Afghanistan and now Washington wants to add a third Middle East failure for the U.S.?

When is our country going to get back on track and stop being an Imperialist War Monger?

At 7:32 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow, just when you think it can't get any worse....... gas will go through the roof is war begins a new, poverty and despair will grow... now the democrats are in bed with the republicans.....

At 11:28 AM, Anonymous Cy Brown said...

Sarah van Gelder is sadly misguided. The only thing these radical and fanatical Islamic countries like Iran understand is the use of force. If Iran is developing nuclear weapons, we must prevent it at all costs. "Diplomacy" is a nice concept, as long as neither side is cheating. Iran cannot be trusted. You can't trust a country that believes martydom equals 40 virgins in the afterlife. Their concept and value of life is vastly different from ours. It's this kind of pacifist thinking that led us to 9/11. If Obama is elected, it would only make us more vulnerable.

At 3:24 PM, Blogger thinking dove said...

House Resoluton 362 is wrong.

Why should we oppose Iran obtaining nuclear weapons?

Why should we oppose any nation obtaining nuclear weapons?

Not only is it a violation of those nations right to develop their military,,, it is futile to do so.

Stopping the spread of Nuclear Weapons is like stopping the spread of any technology.The Internet is a good example. Sooner or later everyone is going to have access. This is a good thing. This is progress.

Mutually assured destruction kept the peace between the United States and the Soviet Union for decades. Mutually assured destruction made war obsolete because it made war unthinkable.

In the future, any conflict, anywhere on Earth will be able to become a nuclear inferno. Humanity will have no choice but to work towards peaceful compromise on every issue. Reason shall prevail as it has always done.

Imagine how much safer and peaceful our world shall become once everyone who wants an atomic bomb is able to have one.


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