Signs of Life :: Foreign Policy


Thousands Oppose War with Iran

Activists and political leaders across the country are saying “no” to U.S. military action against Iran and demanding that the U.S. government pursue real diplomacy with Iran.

Broad coalitions—including veterans groups, mainline faith groups like the Episcopal and United Methodist churches, and advocacy organizations—have organized call-in days and online letter-writing campaigns. The events are a response to aggressive posturing by some elements in the Bush Administration, and to a congressional resolution (H.Con.Res. 362) advanced by both political parties that urges the president to halt gas exports to Iran through what amounts to a blockade. A blockade would constitute an act of war.

The opposition campaigns have garnered tens of thousands of public responses and drawn support from across the political spectrum.

“Our message is simple,” said Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) at a June 11 press conference organized by the Campaign for a New American Policy in Iran, “It’s time to talk to Iran.”

Outside Washington, D.C., city councils in Cambridge, MA, Santa Cruz, CA, and Evanston, IL; voters in Urbana, IL; and dozens of mayors have supported resolutions against U.S. military action in Iran. Demonstrations and vigils against war with Iran are being held in at least 40 cities.

Public outcry has reached the ears of some lawmakers. Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) initially supported H.Con.Res. 362, but later recanted. In a response to a letter from a Peace Action activist, Frank explained his new position on the resolution. “[W]e should have a very clear distinction between sanctions and military action,” he wrote, “and [a] blockade clearly falls on the wrong side of that line, so I will be making clear my opposition to that.” Reps. William Lacy Clay (D-MO), Steve Cohen (D-TN), and Thomas Allen (D-ME) have withdrawn their support, and Robert Wexler (D-FL) says he will seek rewording of the resolution.

Prominent foreign policy experts have also joined the call for diplomacy. Former U.N. Ambassador Thomas Pickering has proposed that the United States and Iran negotiate a plan for multinational oversight of enrichment of uranium in Iran, an arrangement that would allow Iran to participate in uranium enrichment but ensure that uranium is not used in weapons production. In a May 13 letter to the United Nations, Iran indicated its willingness to negotiate on this proposal.

The Bush Administration has insisted that Iran cease all uranium enrichment, but has also shown signs of a shift on Iran. The White House recently sent a top official to six-party nuclear talks in Geneva.

Activist groups like United for Peace and Justice (UFPJ) say this shift is a response to public pressure. But they are wary in light of the Bush Administration’s track record. As recently as July, President Bush told Israel he was prepared to take military action if negotiations with Tehran failed, according to information from a senior Pentagon official reported in the London Times.

“This is no time for complacency,” said Leslie Cagan, UFPJ’s national coordinator.

—Robert Naiman is senior policy analyst at Just Foreign Policy,

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Enough Fear, an international peace group, organized direct phone calls from New York to Iran on January 19, as part of a people-to-people diplomacy effort. Photo by James Felder/
Photo by James Felder/

Enough Fear, an international peace group, organized direct phone calls from New York to Iran on January 19, as part of a people-to-people diplomacy effort.

The group invited New Yorkers passing by to pick up a telephone and talk with volunteers in Iran. Questions ranged from weather to differences in the two countries’ health care systems.





Army Private Robin Long Deported

YES! Magazine graphic: Thumb Down

Army Private Robin Long was deported on July 15 to the U.S. from Canada, where he had sought refugee status. Long had deserted his unit rather than deploy to Iraq. Two other U.S. resisters received permission to stay in Canada, at least for now.

On June 3, the Canadian Parliament passed a non-binding motion urging an end to the deportation of U.S. Iraq War deserters. The legal situation of the roughly 200 deserters remaining in Canada is unclear.


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