Friday, March 15, 2013

The Senate's 10-Year Iraq War Anniversary Gift: War With Iran !

When we mark the grim 10-year anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq next Tuesday, most Americans will be reflecting on the enormous human, economic, and geopolitical costs that the disastrous war and occupation inflicted.

What they won't be doing is hoping for an anniversary gift from the people who got us into that war.

But Jeff Sessions (R-AL), Chuck Schumer (D-NY), and many of their Senate colleagues are busy wrapping up the perfect gift for a country who has been through everything: a new war of choice in the Middle East with Iran.

Senator Sessions recently addressed an audience on Capitol Hill at an event organized by affiliates of the Mujahedin-e Khalq, a radical Iranian exile group that was considered a terrorist organization by the U.S. until late last year. Sessions told the audience that, if President Obama took military action against Iran, "he would have great support in the Congress." He received not one but two standing ovations for his remarks. What he didn't mention was that military officials believe a war to end Iran's nuclear program would means "tens of years" of occupation and would make Iraq look like a cakewalk in comparison.

Meanwhile, the Senate is moving forward with an unprecedented resolution calling for the U.S. to provide support for Israeli strikes on Iran in the form military, economic, and diplomatic backing. The resolution, S.Res.65, is rightly being called a backdoor to war with Iran -- a convenient way to plunge the U.S. into war without a messy public debate but instead automatically, based on when Israel Prime Minister Netanyahu decides to pull the trigger.

Senator Schumer, an original cosponsor of the resolution, defended his support for declaring preemptive U.S. backing for a preventive Israel-led war on Iran by offering an argument so riddled with intelligence falsehoods that it would have made George W. Bush blush.

In a letter to constituents, Schumer asserted that the Senate measure is necessary because Iran "continues to enrich uranium into weapons-grade nuclear materials in violation of United Nations resolutions" and that "experts say that the type of fuel that they produce is sufficient to arm a nuclear warhead."

I don't know who are these "experts" that Senator Schumer is talking to, but they don't include the U.S. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper. Clapper was on the Hill just this week testifying in the Senate about how Iran is still not enriching to weapons grade and has still not made a decision to build a nuclear weapon. Clapper also told senators that, if Iran did make a move to enrich to weapons grade, we would be able to detect it quickly.

The "experts" Schumer is talking to don't just ignore the U.S. intelligence community, they also apparently don't think much of intelligence agencies in Israel or any of the UN Security Council states, or the inspectors at the International Atomic Energy Agency who monitor Iran's nuclear sites. All of these experts are in firm agreement: Iran is not enriching to weapons grade; Iran does not have materials to load into a nuclear warhead; and, just to be clear, Iran would still be years away from being able to assemble and deploy such a warhead.

The overwhelming consensus of these basic facts notwithstanding, there are, of course, real concerns about Iran's nuclear intentions. Which is exactly why the Obama Administration is pursuing verifiable caps on Iran's enrichment through negotiations. Securing such limits on Iran's nuclear work would be a significant but achievable diplomatic accomplishment, and will take time. But the effort is beginning to showing progress, which is why The New York Times -- no dove during the Iraq war push -- called out Congress and the "pro-Israel" lobby AIPAC for pushing measures like S.Res.65 and new sanctions. The Times warns that these measures threaten to upend negotiations, fracture international efforts, and make war more likely. It is clear that some have actually learned the costly lessons from Iraq over the past decade.

While in the buildup to Iraq, the intelligence was being politicized from the inside; in the buildup to Iran, the intelligence is being politicized from outside. Leading up to the Iraq invasion, it was the White House that was heading up the effort to twist the intelligence and selling a public campaign reflecting an imagined reality based on suspicions and ideological agendas. It was Congress that eventually went along for the ride. But what we are seeing now from the intelligence community and the White House is the opposite -- a sober, reality-based analysis of Iran's nuclear program and capabilities, and a serious effort to utilize negotiations to avoid a disastrous war. Instead, it is lobby groups like AIPAC and a broken Congress who are helping dismantle diplomatic options, distorting the intelligence and building up the campaign for war.

If senators cannot be bothered to adhere to the most basic facts about the Iranian nuclear program, it is of little surprise they are okay with outsourcing the decision to go to war with Iran to Israel. But as we reflect on the past decade, the most important way that we can mark this grim anniversary is to make sure we never repeat the mistake of Iraq again and that our elected officials don't take us into war with Iran.

Follow Jamal Abdi on Twitter:

Dear Sir/Madam:

I am writing to express my strong opposition to S.Res.65 and H.R.850--two measures that make war with Iran more likely. As the New York Times editorial board has written, these two measures "could harm negotiations" and "make diplomatic efforts even harder." [Congress Gets in the Way -]

I strongly urge you to withhold cosponsorship and to oppose both of these measures, and instead stand up for a negotiated settlement of the Iranian nuclear issue and for serious diplomacy that includes critical issues like human rights.

S.Res.65 would call for the U.S. to support Israeli military strikes against Iran with the promise of American troops, money, and political support should Israel take such action.

Should this resolution pass, the Senate would undercut U.S. civilian and military leaders and signal that the decision for the U.S. to go to war should be outsourced to Israel. The Pentagon reported last year that an Israeli strike on Iran would draw in the U.S. and leave hundreds of Americans dead in the immediate aftermath. The Joint Chiefs of Staff's Chairman, General Martin Dempsey, has warned, "I don't want to be complicit if [Israel] chooses to [bomb Iran.]" Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, "The results of an American or Israeli military strike on Iran could, in my view, prove catastrophic, haunting us for generations in that part of the world", and "such an attack would make a nuclear-armed Iran inevitable.  They would just bury the program deeper and make it more covert."

War would also be disastrous for the people of the U.S., Iran, and Israel. A recent study concludes that strikes on Iranian nuclear facilities would kill 85,000 Iranians. Iranian civil society is warning that war would bury the hopes of the Iranian people for democracy and human rights.

S.Res.65 resolution claims that the United States would back Israel militarily if it were to attack Iran in "self-defense", which Senator Graham has stated means preventive war. It  also misstates the U.S. "redline" regarding Iran's nuclear program--listing the redline  established by Israeli Prime Minister Netanayahu instead of the one stated by President Obama as U.S. policy. 

H.R.850 would impose further broad sanctions on Iran. As the New York Times wrote, the measure "would pile on tougher sanctions just as the two sides are trying to create trust after decades of hostility." Negotiations will require that the U.S. be prepared to leverage existing sanctions in exchange for concessions regarding Iran's nuclear program. Piling on more sanctions only makes this more difficult and threatens to unravel international efforts and derail hopes for preventing war through successful negotiations.

The new sanctions in H.R.850 would exacerbate the medicine shortage now occurring in Iran. Iranians are already suffering under sanctions that are increasingly failing to distinguish between prohibited transactions and permitted transactions for goods like medicine and food. Additionally, Iran's middle class, which has been the backbone of Iran's human rights and democracy movement, are being hit particularly hard by these sanctions--not Iran's government.  Congress should not be passing new sanctions that not only undercut negotiations that are the best hope for preventing war, but also punish the wrong targets in Iran.

We need leadership to prevent war and find a peaceful, diplomatic solution to the standoff with Iran. I urge you to stand up and be on the right side of this debate, and the right side of history by supporting diplomacy. I urge you to strongly oppose S.Res.65 and H.R.850. I look forward to your response.



Latest Title: Nuclear Iran Prevention Act of 2013
Sponsor: Rep Royce, Edward R. [CA-39] (introduced 2/27/2013)      Cosponsors (167)
Latest Major Action: 3/4/2013 Referred to House subcommittee. Status: Referred to the Subcommittee on Trade.


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