The United States and Iran are closer to war than they have ever been at any time in their tumultuous history. Due to a lethal combination of US policy failures in the Middle East and entrenched political and economic interests at home, the Bush Administration is reportedly preparing to carry out a massive bombing campaign against Iran to set back its nuclear program and degrade its military capabilities.
In a January 10 speech to the nation, Bush defied the elite bi-partisan Iraq Study Group and the American public by putting in place a policy to escalate the war and provoke Iran into a military conflict. The Bush Administration’s military build-up in the region, its refusal to take the military option off the table, and its strong resistance to diplomacy indicate that a conflict is highly likely.
Constitutionally, the President is responsible for foreign policy. As the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces, the President has the primary authority to wage war, but he shares this power with the legislative branch, which controls the nation’s purse. Right now, little stands in the way of an attack once the current infighting inside the Administration is resolved. That can happen at any time from now until January 2009 when the President leaves office.
The only sure way to prevent a pre-emptive attack on Iran is if Congress passes a legally binding resolution that restricts the President’s ability to use funds for military force against Iran.
Reacting to Bush’s new provocation-escalation policy, members of Congress have introduced several resolutions in the House and Senate that aim to do just that. But only two of these resolutions – H.J. 14, H.R. 770 – are binding, meaning that they invoke the budgetary power of Congress and can actually prohibit the President from using funds to carry out an attack. The rest are non-binding resolutions that express the opinion of Congress, and while important, do not legally bind the President. These include H.Con.Res 33, H.Con.Res. 45, H.Con.Res. 63, S. Con. Res. 13, and S.Res. 39.
There are reports that the American Israeli Political Action Committee (AIPAC) – Washington’s virulently anti-Iran lobby – is mobilizing against these resolutions. In the last two weeks, co-sponsorship has lost momentum. Further, the presidential candidates for 2008 – including all of the Democratic candidates – are also under intense pressure by AIPAC to keep the military option on the table. This, in essence, blocks a diplomatic solution and makes war more likely.
Make no mistake about it. Supporting diplomacy does not mean that Iranian Americans are supporting the Iranian government. But not supporting diplomacy amounts to supporting war against the Iranian nation. We are currently functioning in a binary political framework, and it is critical to maintain clarity on the policy options before us.
This is where the Iranian-American community comes in.
It is essential that Iranian Americans directly contact their members of Congress –in both the House and Senate – and ask them to support binding legislation that prohibits a US attack on Iran.
Iranian-American donors to the 2008 presidential and Congressional campaigns must leverage their contributions by supporting candidates incrementally and making them contingent on a constructive policy of diplomacy and an unequivocal opposition to military options with regard to Iran.
The Iranian-American community is at a distinct disadvantage from its adversaries in the United States. Not only does it not have an official lobby to formally push legislation, it also lacks political action committees that provide dollars on issues related to foreign policy. The Iranian American Political Action Committee (IAPAC), our community’s only PAC, has not become involved in U.S.-Iran relations – focusing instead on immigration and civil rights. But there are other effective actors on the scene. The National Iranian American Council (NIAC) has worked furiously for the past five years to educate and advocate on behalf of Iranian Americans. Currently, NIAC is at the forefront of Congressional and grassroots advocacy – working in broad coalitions – toward the goal of reaching a diplomatic solution.
Iranian-American citizens have an extremely important role to play. They must work individually and collectively to fill these institutional gaps. They must stay informed and pressure elected officials and candidates for office to oppose any military option with regard to Iran. Above all, it is their duty to educate their lawmakers on Iran and of the repercussions of a military attack. In every conversation with their representatives, they should specifically reference resolutions prohibiting an attack on Iran, and ask their members to support them. Then, they should follow up to see if they signed on. They should track lawmakers’ positions and statements on Iran, send letters, make office visits and place phone calls. There should be no doubt in members’ minds where Iranian Americans stand on this issue and there should be no doubt that our community’s support is based on their support of a constructive Iran policy.
Specifically, Iranian Americans should ask their representatives in the House to support all four House resolutions on Iran – H.J. Res. 14,HR 770, H.Con.Res. 33, and H.Con.Res. 45. They should ask their Senators to support S.Con.Res. 13 and S.Res. 39. They should further ask their Senators to join their House colleagues in supporting a binding measure to prohibit the use of funds to attack Iran. Remember that emphasis should be put on binding resolutions.
Despite ominous signs, there is still hope that military conflict can be averted. The mood on Capitol Hill is against war and in favor of diplomacy. A new momentum exists on Iran that has not existed in the past ten years. It is our best opportunity to heal the relationship for the sake of peace between the two nations. It is your voice that can make the difference.
For help on contacting your members of Congress, visit NIAC’s Capitol Hill Basics site or call NIAC’s office at 202-719-8071.
BINDING CONGRESSIONAL RESOLUTIONS ON IRAN TO SUPPORT
House of Representatives H.J. Res. 14 introduced by Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC) on January 12, 2007, explicitly requires Congressional authorization for any use of military force against Iran absent a national emergency or attack by Iran, and prohibits the use of any act prior to this act as authorization of use of force against Iran.
(40 Co-sponsors as of this writing: Walter Jones, Neil Abercrombie, Bartlett Roscoe, Earl Blumenauer, Robert Brady, William Lacy Clay, John Duncan, Barney Frank, Rush Holt, Henry Johnson, Dennis Kucinich, John Larson, Jim McDermott, Michael McNulty, Gregory Meeks, John Murtha, Richard Neal, Bill Pascrell, Thomas Allen, Timothy Bishop, Leonard Boswell, Michael Capuano, Peter DeFazio, Luis Fortuno, Wayne Gilchrest, Sheila Jackson-Lee, Patrick Kennedy, James Langevin, Carolyn Maloney, James McGovern, Martin Meehan, James Moran, Grace Napolitano, John Olver, Ron Paul, Janice Schakowsky, Gene Taylor, Alber Russell Wynn, Carol Shea-Porter, Peter Visclosky).
H.R. 770 introduced by Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) on January 31, 2007 prohibits the use of funds for to carry out any covert action for the purpose of causing regime change in Iran or to carry out any military action against Iran in the absence of an imminent threat, in accordance with international law and constitutional and statutory requirements for Congressional authorization. It also calls for constructive engagement with Iran.
(13 Co-sponsors as of this writing: John Conyers, Lloyd Doggett, Raul Grijalva, Dennis Kucinich, John Olver, Diane Watson, Peter DeFazio, Sam Farr, William Jefferson, James McGovern, Maxine Waters, Barbara Lee, Lynn Woolsey).
Senate There are no binding resolutions in the Senate as of yet.
NON-BINDING CONGRESSIONAL RESOLUTIONS ON IRAN TO SUPPORT
House of Representatives H.Con.Res 33 (concurrent resolution is S.Con.Res. 13) introduced by Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR) on January 16, 2007 expresses the “Sense of the House” that military action requires Congressional authorization.
(41 Co-sponsors as of this writing: Tammy Baldwin, Leonard Boswell, Corrine Brown, John Conyers, Peter Defazio, Lloyd Doggett, Barney Frank, Maurice Hinchey, Rush Holt, Eddie Bernice Johnson, John Larson, Carolyn Maloney, James McGovern, George Miller, John Murtha, Ed Pastor, David Price, Steven Rothman, Pete Fortney Stark, John Tierney, Lynn Woolsey, Earl Blumenauer, Rick Boucher, Michael Capuano, Elijah Cummings, Sam Farr, Raul Grijalva, Mazie Hirono, Darlene Hooley, Dennis Kucinich, Barbara Lee, Betty McCollum, Michael McNulty, James Moran, John Olver, Donald Payne, Nick Rahall, Janice Schakowsky, Mike Thompson, Peter Welch, and David Wu.)
H.Con.Res. 45 introduced by Frank Wolf (R-VA) on January 24, 2007 calls for the implementation of the International Study Group (Baker-Hamilton) Recommendations, including the launching of “a new diplomatic initiative to unite the region and build international consensus for stability and reconstruction in Iraq.”
(11 Co-sponsors as of this writing: Judy Biggert, Michael Castle, Tom Davis, Charles Dent, Jim Gerlach, Wayne Gilchrest, Bob Inglis, Christopher Shays, Michael McCaul, Christopher Smith, Frank Wolf.)
Senate Se.Res.39 introduced on January 24, 2007 by Senator Robert Byrd (D-WV) expresses the sense of the Senate on the need for approval by the Congress before any offensive military action by the United States is taken on any country.
(2 Co-sponsors as of this writing: Robert Byrd, Bernie Sanders)
S.Con.Res.13 (concurrent resolution is H.Con.Res.33) introduced on February 15, 2007 by Senator Bernie Sanders (D-VT) expresses the sense of the Congress that the President should not initiate military action against Iran without first obtaining authorization from Congress.
(1 Sponsor: Bernie Sanders)
STAY INFORMED AND GET INVOLVED
National Iranian American Council (NIAC) LegWatch program provides weekly updates on Capitol Hill activity on Iran and publishes issue briefs and memos through their US-Iran Media Resource Project. Sign up for their newsletter at www.niacouncil.org or better yet, become a member. NIAC also houses a Political Engagement Center through which to contact your members of Congress.
The Campaign against Sanctions and Military Intervention in Iran (CASMII) website contains articles and resources promoting US-Iran dialogue at http://www.campaigniran.org/casmii/
The Center for Arms Control and Nonproliferation’s maintains a detailed Iran Nuclear Watch Blog.
The Council for a Livable World provides a “Letter to the Editor” action resource and various resources on the Iran nuclear issue.
Working Assets provides an Action Alert in favor diplomacy with Iran.
MoveOn.org is housing an Action Alert to call on Congress to rein in the President on Iran. MoveOn is also leading a campaign to raise funds to advertise against war with Iran in major newspapers. Contribute here.
StopIranWar.com set up by Wesley Clark and Votevets houses a petition urging President Bush to enter into dialogue with Iran. The site also provides a “Write a Letter to the Editor” resource to send letters to your local newspaper.
Enough Fear is an international effort to prevent war between the US and the campaign is collecting photos of Americans and Iranians on its website to demonstrate solidarity in this cause. http://www.enoughfear.org.
Physicians for Social Responsibility is leading an ad campaign, with efforts from other organizations, based on a phrase developed by Jim Walsh, “If you like war in Iraq, then you’ll love with Iran.” The ad can now be used by local groups across the country to run in their papers. For more information, contact Ira Shorr at PSR at email@example.com
The Project on Defense Alternatives has a new web page with critical perspectives on the current crisis, its origins, and implications. For more information, please visit: http://www.comw.org/pda/0702iran.html.
Friends Committee on National Legislation is doing a speaking tour, featuring Joe Volk, FCNL Executive Director, who recently returned from Iran on a religious delegation. For more information or find out if Joe is available to speak in your community, please contact Jim Cason at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Hip Hop Caucus is doing a “Make Hip Hop, Not War” tour this spring. If your organization has grassroots in the cities where the speaking tour will be, please encourage them to organize events in local venues or help coordinate local media. For more information on speaking tour dates, contact Liz Havstad at email@example.com.