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Resolutions on Iran
On Capitol Hill

From National Iranian American council
September 24, 2002
The Iranian

While the nation is discussing how to deal with Iraq and Saddam Hussein, the debate on what to do with Iraq's neighbor to the east ˝ Iran - is heating up on Capitol Hill. While the hawks are preparing the ground for a regime change in Tehran, the doves are not willing to give up on the reformists just quite yet.

Although Saddam Hussein is viewed as a more imminent menace, Iran never stops to fascinate and puzzle US decision makers. Within the neo-conservative camp, the faction who has pushed for an attack on Iraq ever since President Bush took over the White House, there are those who believe that the war should be expanded to Iran. These viewpoints have strong resonance amongst pro-Israeli lawmakers on the Hill.

The "neo-con" perspective is that the people of the Middle East are anti-American due to the corruption of their leaders. With the appropriate US intervention and Űregime change" in these countries, most of the problems the US faces in the region would be avoided.

And just as much as Saddam Hussein needs to be removed from power, there is a need for a "regime change" in Iran as well, the neo-conservatives argue. According to this camp, the people of Iran would welcome US intervention and the overthrow of the regime in Tehran.

On the other side of the isle, there are those in the Washington policy scene that believe that Iran is the first Islamic country to take genuine steps towards democracy. If the theocracy in Tehran can be democratized, its impact in the region may be as profound as its revolution in 1979. Only this time, Iran would export democracy rather than fundamentalism to its Islamic neighbors. The indigenous democratization of the region would in turn eradicate anti-Americanism, their argument reads.

The proponents of this view believe that the "regime change" mentality is in itself one of the causes of anti-Americanism. They point to fact that the US Arab allies in the region ˝ of which none are democracies ˝ are the countries where anti-Americanism is the strongest. The peoples of these nations oppose the US due to the support Washington gives to the dictators that rule them. To replace them with another leadership is simply not a solution, they argue, since it is democratization that the region needs, not regime-change.

On the other hand, neo-conservatives argue that it is a pipe dream to believe that theocracies and totalitarian regimes can be reformed. These regimes may vary on their degree of oppression, but they still remain undemocratic dictatorships that oppress their peoples. Iran is a case in point, they argue, and point to the human rights record of the Iranian regime.

The Iranian people want change now, and if the US were to extend its support to those who aim to reform the society inch by inch over the next two decades, Washington would simply side against the people of Iran, they contend. The greatest favor the US can do for the people of Iran is to remove their oppressors.

These two viewpoints are captured in two opposing resolutions on Iran in Congress:

H.Res 505 introduced by Representatives Bob Ney and Gil Gutknecht proposes that the US should support the Iranian people's non-violent struggle for reform and democracy. The focus of this resolution is to keep the door open for a dialogue with the regime in Iran, while expressing disappointment in the slow pace of reform.

H. Res. 505 recognizes that although the vast majority of the people of Iran voted for political and economic reform, "their voices are being ignored by the unelected people who are the real rulers of Iran". It concludes that "it should be the policy of the United States to support Iran's domestic movement for democracy, reform, and freedom."

This resolution has attracted approximately 10 cosponsors in the House, but it is yet to be introduced on the Senate side. According to the statistics amassed by NIAC, 79% of the Iranian-Americans using our CapWiz system have sent letters to their lawmakers urging them to support this resolution. But the resolution lacks organized support from the Iranian-American community, i.e. there are no Iranian-American organizations lobbying on the Hill in favor of this resolution.

The Mujahedin Khalq Organization (MKO), however, has lobbied against it. The MKO also have a letter and an Iran Statement circulating on the Hill that many view as a competitor to Resolution 505. That letter/statement has attracted approximately 120 signatures in the House.

There are indications, however, that Secretary Powell will mention the MKO as an example of a terrorist organization harbored and supported by Saddam Hussein in his address to the House International Relations Committee on Thursday September 19. Such a statement is believed to cause the support for the MKO's Iran statement to dwindle.

The other resolution, S. Res 306 and H. Res 504, has been introduced by Senators Sam Brownback , Jon Wyden and Congressman Tom Lantos. It proposes that the US should end its attempts to talk to the reformists in Iran and instead conduct a direct dialogue with the Iranian people.

The resolution points out that the Supreme Leader has "limitless veto power", that the unelected Expediency Council and Council of Guardians are "capable of eviscerating any reforms" and that the President was elected only after 234 other candidates were disqualified "for being too liberal, reformist, or secular."

The resolution concludes that a dialogue with Tehran would legitimize the regime in Tehran and stifle "the growth of the genuine democratic forces in Iran and does not serve the national security interest of the United States."

The Senate version of this resolution currently has 11 cosponsors, while the House version only has one. Approximately 21% of the Iranian-Americans using NIAC's CapWiz system have sent letters to their lawmakers urging them to support this resolution. This resolution also enjoys the support of pro-monarchist groups in Washington DC.

It is unclear whether any of these resolutions will reach the floor by the end of next week. If not, no action is likely to be taken until after the November elections.

Iranian-Americans should as a group and as individuals voice their views on all issues that preoccupies America. As a non-partisan organization, NIAC does not promote a particular view on any piece of legislation. Rather, our mission is to enable Iranian-Americans to voice their opinions in an effective and accurate way, whatever those opinions may be.

We strongly recommend that you let your lawmaker know which resolution you think he or she should support. Your lawmaker is supposed to represent you, and he or she can only do so if you communicate your views. NIAC offers two pre-written letters that you can chose from, each supporting one of these resolutions. You can also draft your own letter.

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