Welcome to our new blog, which will provide some analysis, discussion, and important but often under-emphasized news about US foreign policy. This blog will be primarily informational, but the authors are part of a growing membership organization that will change US foreign policy, and so readers will also be kept current on these efforts. The organization is Just Foreign Policy (www.justforeignpolicy.org)
Mark Weisbrot is also Co-Director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research and you can find more information about him here; Robert Naiman is National Coordinator of Just Foreign Policy, and you can find more information about him here.
One of Just Foreign Policy’s main areas of focus right now is to prevent a military conflict between the United States and Iran. Our first post (below) provides some background and update on this issue.
Mark Weisbrot and Robert Naiman
Yes, It Is Possible to Stop War with Iran
In recent weeks, press reports have indicated that U.S. efforts to prepare for a military attack on Iran have accelerated. Time magazine wrote of new movements of U.S. warships to the region and reviewing of plans for airstrikes and blockading Iranian ports. Many, of course, have compared the present situation to that four years ago when, faced with a mid-term election and a hyped threat of "weapons of mass destruction" from Iraq, Congress voted to authorize the President to "use the Armed Forces of the United States as he determines to be necessary" to "defend the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq."
Of course, there are indeed many similarities. Claims of an imminent threat from Iran are not borne out by more sober assessments of international inspectors or by our own career intelligence experts. The Bush Administration claims to be pursuing diplomacy, but then sabotages diplomatic efforts by clearly unreasonable demands. As the New York Times reported on October 4, the Bush Administration has "consistently taken the position that any uranium enrichment on Iranian soil is out of the question," a position that has no basis in international law, and would require Iran to give up fundamental rights. Meanwhile, the Bush Administration refused to pledge not to attack Iran militarily, even if negotiations over its uranium enrichment program were to be successful.
A military strike against Iran would be politically risky for the Administration, but the Bush team has repeatedly warned that “all options are on the table.” Whether or not they decide to move faster along this route between now and the election, their ongoing efforts in the direction of military action against Iran could easily bear fruit at a later date. And the election season brings tends to silence what might otherwise be opposition in Congress (see the recent passage by Congress, with almost no debate, of the Iran Sanctions bill.)
On the postitive side, there are significant differences between the present situation and the build-up to war with Iraq. These are important because four years ago, many people were frustrated that after so many huge demonstrations around the world, including in the US, after many meetings, lobbying, letters to Congress, the war in Iraq went ahead anyway. So some of these folks may say to themselves, what's the point in protesting, in lobbying Congress, in writing letters to the editor, when they are going to do whatever they want anyway?
Of course, such a view would not be morally defensible. History is complicated and unpredictable, and there is never a point at which an objective person could honestly say, "now I'm certain that it's hopeless. Nothing I could do would possibly make any difference."
To see how unpredictable things are, look at the Foley/Hastert scandal. Four weeks out from the elections, when the Republicans want to dominate discussion with hyped up stories about supposed threats from Iran or “terrorism”, they can't dictate the agenda because one of their members of Congress was caught making sexual advances to teenage boys and the Republican leaders covered it up. No one predicted this, not even a week earlier.
But in this particular case, we don't have to rely on the unpredictability of politics. The world has changed since four years ago. President Bush is much weaker politically, domestically as well as internationally. His domestic approval ratings are in the cellar. A majority of Americans consistently tell pollsters the war in Iraq was a mistake. Democratic politicians are increasingly demanding a timetable for withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq. Senior Republicans, like Senator Warner and Senator Frist, are questioning the Administration's policy in Iraq and Afghanistan. Journalists are getting bolder in criticizing the government, as Bob Woodward, who previously wrote two favorable books about the Bush Administration, now says it is hiding the truth from the public about what is going on in Iraq. Internationally, Bush's key ally Tony Blair is on his way out, while France, Russia and China are deeply skeptical about even imposing economic sanctions in Iran in the United Nations Security Council, and insist the diplomacy be given the opportunity to work.
This is why it is critical that more people in the United States stand up right now in clear opposition to a U.S. military attack on Iran.
Robert Naiman adds:
Take a first step. Sign our petition against war with Iran at http://www.justforeignpolicy.org/involved/iranpetition.html. This petition, directed to Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, is a joint project with Peace Action. And become a member of our organization by signing up for action alerts or news updates. In the past, Americans have successfully organized to reverse destructive U.S. foreign policies -- ending the Vietnam War, breaking the Reagan Administration's cozy relationship with Apartheid South Africa. Many Americans, in a political season three and a half years into a disastrous war, are ready to hear a different message about the direction of our foreign policy. Help us get that message out.