Rebecca Griffin / Peace Action West & Marvin Kalb and Michael E. O’Hanlon / The Brookings Institute Blog – 2013-07-09 00:13:16
ACTION ALERT: Rally Your Rep to Halt March to War on Iran
Rebecca Griffin / Peace Action West
(July 8, 2013) — “The United States is on the road to war with Iran.”
This statement by two prominent foreign policy scholars reflects dangerous thinking shared by too many in the political class. [See article below.] Diplomacy with Iran takes time, and requires effort from both sides. Some people are trying to push us down that road to war, but it’s not too late for a detour.
If the government is going to take advantage of this opportunity for diplomacy, we need to show them that the public demands a peaceful solution.
We Can’t Afford to Continue Business as Usual
The newly elected President of Iran is sending positive signals that he wants to engage with the West.  When he comes into office next month, we’ll have the best opportunity in years to test out real diplomacy with Iran. But not if we send the wrong signals in these next critical months.
Reps. David Price (D-NC) and Charlie Dent (R-PA) just put forward a bipartisan letter urging the president to reinvigorate efforts to negotiate with Iran.
We need to get as many signatures as possible on this letter in the next week to show that the momentum is behind diplomacy. A strong showing on this letter will help give President Obama the political space to take advantage of a real chance to avoid military confrontation and resolve tensions with Iran peacefully.
Hawks will be looking for any excuse to torpedo engagement with Iran. Groups around the country are mobilizing this week to build support for this letter. We have a real opportunity now, but it is a fragile one.
We need your help to get as many signatures as possible supporting diplomacy with Iran in the next week.
ACTION: Ask your representative to sign the Dent/Price letter.
I am very encouraged by the positive signs coming from President-Elect Rouhani. We can test the potential for a real breakthrough, but only if we commit to effective diplomacy.
That means demonstrating strong support for taking advantage of this opportunity. If we undermine the potential relationship right away, we could lose our best recent hope for diplomacy and leave only horrible options like military force on the table.
Please sign the Dent/Price letter supporting diplomacy with Iran. I will keep informed on the outcome of the final letter and look forward to hearing your response.
Rebecca Griffin is the Political Director for Peace Action West. Peace Action West â€¢ 2201 Broadway, Ste 321 Oakland, CA 94612 â€¢ (800) 949-9020
An Opportunity For Congress On The Road To War With Iran
Marvin Kalb and Michael E. O’Hanlon / The Brookings Institute Blog
Brookings Institute Editor’s Note: Our Brookings colleagues Marvin Kalb and Michael O’Hanlon published an oped on the role of Congress in US policy toward Tehran in Politico early last week arguing that “if by fall there is no forward movement on the negotiating front with Tehran, Congress should take up the Iran issue.
The vote would consider the question of whether, in the event that Iran moved irrevocably toward development of a nuclear weapon, all means should be considered by the president to prevent that outcome.”
The piece sparked a number of counter-arguments, including one from Matthew Duss and Lawrence Korb of the Center for American Progress published in Politico on Friday, June 28, “The US Should Tread Lightly On Iran,” contending that missteps by Washington would undercut possibilities for compromise on the nuclear issue.
Iran @ Saban asked O’Hanlon and Kalb to continue the conversation on our blog, which they kindly obliged below. We look forward to continuing the discussion!at IranAtSaban@brookings.edu
(July 3, 2013) — The United States is on the road to war with Iran.
Proof is a string of presidential commitments to stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons. “All options are on the table,” President Obama has stressed, leaving little doubt that if Iran continues to enrich its uranium reserve, moving from the peaceful uses of nuclear power to its military uses, then a US strike against Iran, with or without Israel, becomes a distinct possibility.
If there were any evidence that Iran is listening to these presidential warnings, and adjusting its nuclear program accordingly, the option of an American military attack on Iran would almost certainly be shelved.
Probably no US official would be more relieved than Obama, who wants desperately to sheave his Mideast sword and return to “nation-building” in America. But there is no such evidence, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency.
Ah, but maybe there is, wonder such public policy analysts as Matthew Duss and Lawrence Korb of the Center for American Progress. With the recent surprise election of Hassan Rouhani, regarded as a moderate among the Iranian leadership, there may now be “renewed possibility of a diplomatic solution” to the nuclear impasse, and the “US should be as careful as possible to do no harm.” And what would do such harm? A “congressional debate over the use of force against Iran,” write Duss and Korb in a Politico op-ed.
Unfortunately, none of us has special access to the supreme leader of Iran’s secret files, or to sources close to him. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei may be the cleverest diplomat in an Iranian bazaar ever to engage in a nuclear negotiation, ready to conclude an acceptable agreement, if only Obama would advance a face-saving compromise. Maybe, but there is no evidence after years of trying and negotiating of the Ayatollah’s yearning for a deal.
If Obama had never made his original “commitment” to stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons, we would not be facing this growing crisis. But he did, and we do, and what now?
Perhaps there is lesson in our recent history. In the winter of 1966, as the US was slipping deeper into a colonial war in Southeast Asia, Senator J. William Fulbright, Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, took an important step.
He opened a series of public (and private) hearings on Vietnam. He invited government officials, scholars and journalists. “Under our system,” Fulbright explained, “Congress, and especially the Senate, share responsibility with the president for making our national foreign policy.”
The Arkansas Democrat was concerned that President Johnson, another Democrat, was leading the country into a poorly understood calamity, and it was Congress’s “responsibility” to do something — in this case, to hold televised hearings that would educate the people to the deadly realities of a guerrilla war in Southeast Asia.
Then, he had to rely basically on the three major networks to carry his hearings, if not ‘live’ then on their evening newscasts; and they did, more or less. The impact was tremendous. In one month, popular support for the war fell from 63% to 49%.
The war, of course, did continue, unfortunately. National life was severely disrupted, and more than 58,000 Americans died.
This lesson from history mirrors two current realities: more than ever, Congress has effectively abdicated its responsibility to help manage the nation’s foreign policy, vesting extraordinary powers in the presidency to start, run and stop wars; and the danger of a war with Iran looms on the not too distant horizon. Those are the facts facing any analyst.
Minimally, we believe, Congress ought to get back into the business of representing the public on matters of war and peace, and launch a serious conversation with the nation about US relations with Iran, starting with the post World War II history of the two countries and then running up to today’s nuclear crisis between them.
At this time, Congress can rely on more than the three TV networks to carry important hearings; it can also rely on a hugely expanded technological universe, including the wondrous magic of the Internet, cable television and satellite radio. The result would be a vastly more educated public — and more.
If, after these hearings, which could last several months, the Obama administration faced the unmistakable prospect of conflict with Iran, Congress would then be in a much better position to debate a resolution authorizing the president to take appropriate action, including military action, to meet the challenge — and to debate it far more intelligently than if there had been no Congressionally-sponsored national seminar on US-Iranian relations.
According to this political and diplomatic scenario, there would be no need for a declaration of war, which Congress has not authorized in any case since December 1941, even though there have been many wars involving US troops.
As Fulbright said, Congress must share in the responsibility for running American foreign policy. It was never intended to be a presidential monopoly.
Marvin Kalb is a Nonresident Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institute. Marvin Kalb focuses on the impact of media on public policy and politics. He is also an expert in national security, with a focus on US relations with Russia, Europe and the Middle East. His most recent book is The Road to War: Presidential Commitments Honored and Betrayed available May 10, 2013 from Brookings Institution
Michael E. O’Hanlon is Director of Research, Foreign Policy, at the Brookings Institute and a Senior Fellow, Foreign Policy, at the Center for 21st Century Security and Intelligence. O’Hanlon specializes in national security and defense policy and is senior author of the Iraq and Afghanistan Index, projects. Before joining Brookings, O’Hanlon worked as a national security analyst at the Congressional Budget Office. His current research agenda includes military strategy and technology, Northeast Asia, US Central Command, and defense budgets, among other defense/security issues.
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.