Some good news on the extension of nuclear talks with Iran

July 22, 2014

Amid the mostly awful daily news from the Middle East, one piece of good news came late last week. Iran and the “P5 +1″ (the U.S., Russia, England, France, China and Germany) agreed to continue negotiations on Iran’s nuclear program for another four months. The interim Joint Plan of Action deadline was July 20, but as expected, all parties agreed enough progress and benefits have been seen to continue negotiations.

Our colleagues at Win Without War (a coalition Peace Action has been a part of since 2002) compiled supportive statements from editorial boards and experts and also from Members of Congress.

You can show your support for continued diplomacy with a FaceBook graphic from our friends at Council for a Livable World or by writing a letter to the editor of your local newspaper (or posting on a blog), and here are some talking points from Rethink Media and National Security Network to help you write your letter or post:

Extending the negotiations is a “win/win” for the US.

 

  • The nuclear inspectors on the ground in Iran have confirmed that Iran has frozen and even rolled back its nuclear activities – living up to its promises under the current deal.

 

  • By continuing the talks, Iran’s nuclear program remains frozen, and we get extra time to work on eliminating the possibility of an Iranian bomb.

 

  • Soundbite: It’s far better to secure a deal in overtime than quit and go home.

 

Continuing diplomacy is better than rushing to war.

 

  • If Congress kills the negotiations by imposing new sanctions or unworkable terms for a final agreement, Iran will unfreeze its nuclear program without restriction…which means either Iran gets a nuclear bomb or we have to fight another war in the Middle East.

 

  • After more than a decade of war, Americans strongly oppose the prospect of another military conflict. As their representatives, we owe it to them to explore every diplomatic opportunity.

 

  • Soundbite: What we’re doing now is exactly what we should have done instead of invading Iraq. 

 

Adding more sanctions will do more harm than good.

 

  • Exploiting the extension as an opportunity to impose new sanctions or terms for a final deal would kill the talks and likely lead to the collapse of international sanctions.

 

  • All of the countries that matter support the negotiations. We should continue to work with our allies rather than taking unilateral action and undermining the talks.

 

  • Soundbite: Sanctions brought Iran to the table, but sanctions didn’t roll back Iran’s nuclear program – negotiations did.

Tell President Obama “Don’t Try to Put Out the Fire in Iraq With Gasoline!”

June 13, 2014

by Kevin Martin

Tell President Obama “Don’t Try to Put Out the Fire in Iraq With Gasoline!”

Believe it or not, some are responding to the escalating violence in Iraq with calls for U.S. military intervention. Have they learned nothing?

Please take action: Tell President Obama not to try putting out the fire with gasoline – no U.S. military intervention in Iraq, invest in diplomacy and international cooperation instead.

The advance of the forces of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is no doubt alarming, but not a complete surprise in the context of deep social, ethnic, religious and political divisions in Iraq and the wider region. Our former Executive Director, David Cortright, has a sensible, concise post on this issue you might find illuminating.

Contact the president and send this alert to friends, family and colleagues you believe would want to take this action. The people of Iraq and the region need peace, reconciliation and development, not more war and definitely not U.S. bombs or troops.

Please take action to let the president know more war is not the answer.

To learn more about the situation in Iraq, here are a few recent articles you might find illuminating.

New York Times article on the current situation and consideration of U.S. military intervention

The Guardian on the collapse of the U.S.-trained Iraqi Army as ISIS advanced on Mosul

The Guardian again on the spread of ISIS in Iraq and Syria


When Good News Goes Unreported

May 3, 2014

Have you heard?  The deal with Iran appears to be working.  We’re almost at the half-way point of the Joint Plan of Action and Iran appears to be living up to it commitments.

The International Atomic Energy Agency reports indicate that Iran is ahead of schedule in eliminating its stockpile of 20 percent enriched uranium.  There are also reports that Iran may agree to alter the design of the Arak heavy water reactor to reduce its potential plutonium output which would be a major concession.

Not surprising, the media has devoted more coverage to the flap over the Obama administration’s rejection of Iran’s nominee for UN ambassador than the fact that negotiations free of threats have produced tangible success while a decade of sanctions and intimidation did not.

Further, as IAEA inspections and limitations on its nuclear program have reduced the chances of Iran developing a nuclear weapon, a final settlement would only make a nuclear breakout less likely.

The deadline for the Joint Plan of Action is July 20.  That gives opponents of diplomacy just under three months to torpedo a final settlement.

Of course, Peace Action won’t be waiting to see how this turns out.  We are organizing lobby days, Monday to Wednesday June 23-25 to put the full force of our grassroots network behind the successful resolution of the decade old crisis over Iran’s nuclear program.

Peace Action activists and our allies are making travel plans and setting up meetings with their Congressional delegations.  Citizen lobby days are a powerful tactic timed to strengthen the Obama administration’s resolve in the final weeks before the deadline.

A final deal carries with it a commitment to lift all nuclear related sanctions.  That will require approval by Congress which has demonstrated infinitely greater aptitude at levying sanctions and little appetite for lifting them.  Peace Action’s plans for a citizen lobby day will provide added political pressure on key Members of Congress to bring this crisis to a peaceful close.

Diplomacy has lessened the threat of a military strike against Iran but has not eliminated it.  Opponents to a diplomatic settlement are opposed to any accommodation with Iran.  For them, Iran should be offered two choices, knuckle under or face war with the US.  The problem is there are many in Congress who share this dangerous sentiment.  Their numbers insure the lifting of sanctions required once a deal is in place will likely come down to a close vote.  Peace Action is mobilizing its network to make sure it’s a vote we win.

Watch for information on how you can get involved in Peace Action’s Diplomacy Not War with Iran lobby days in coming weeks or call Peter Deccy at 301.565.4050 extension 326 for more information.


Peace Action/Peace Action Education Fund 2013 Accomplishments

January 23, 2014

Peace Action/Peace Action Education Fund 2013 Program, Policy,

Political and Organizing Accomplishments

-Stopped a U.S. attack on Syria! Peace Action played a key leadership role in convening an ad hoc coalition to activate groups on Syria starting in June, which was then quickly mobilized in late August/early September, along with our grassroots affiliate/chapter network, to successfully demand alternatives to a U.S. attack on Syria. (national office, affiliate network)

-Helped realize a modest cut in Pentagon budget (everybody!)

-Provided leadership in grassroots efforts at defense transition/economic conversion in Connecticut, Wisconsin, Ohio, Massachusetts and New Hampshire (national office, affiliates and chapters, national and grassroots allies)

-Coordinated/help lead two national days of action on cutting the Pentagon budget – Pull the Pork and Global Day of Action on Military Spending/Tax Day (national office and affiliate network, national, international and local allies)

-Effective advocacy of Diplomacy, Not War with Iran (so far!) (Affiliate network, national office, allies)

-Helped keep up the pressure to end the war in Afghanistan and for a complete withdrawal of U.S. forces and bases (everybody)

-Led coalition around pressing the U.S. to participate in multi-lateral nuclear disarmament forums – 24 organizations signed letter to White House, 25,000 signed petition, pulled together a new ad hoc coalition to continue to press for progress in multi-lateral arena (national office, PANYS, allies)

-Peace Voter/PAC – helped elect longtime ally Ed Markey to U.S. Senate seat from Massachusetts (Mass PA, national office)

-Launched a new “A Foreign Policy for All” campaign outlining a positive, proactive, more peaceful and sustainable U.S. foreign and military policy (national office)

-Had letters to the editor, news articles and op-eds published in the Washington Post, Baltimore Sun, Common Dreams, Foreign Policy in Focus, CounterPunch, Huffington Post plus many in local media (national and affiliates and chapters – CA, OR, IL, MD, NJ, NC, MA, NY, WI, NY, OH, MO, KS, NE, PA and more!), as well as international outlets and radio and television interviews. Most of these are posted on our website or Peace Blog.


No More Sanctions on Iran, Give Diplomacy and Peace a Chance!

November 15, 2013

The tide is indeed turning, but your senators need to hear from you – no more sanctions, support diplomacy with Iran over its nuclear program. You can reach your senators’ offices via the congressional switchboard at 202-224-3121.

Good article (with a nod to Peace Action!) on Huffington Post by our colleague Jamal Abdi of the National Iranian American Council, titled Tide Turns Towards Diplomacy as Key Senators Oppose New Iran Sanctions

Jamal Abdi

Policy Director, National Iranian American Council

GET UPDATES FROM JAMAL ABDI

 

Posted: 11/15/2013 2:27 pm

 

President Obama and the White House have been engaged in a battle in the Senate to block the chamber from passing new sanctions that could derail ongoing negotiations with Iran. The White House has been clear: new sanctions could kill the talks and put the U.S. on a “path to war.”

Groups including NIACFCNLPeace ActionAmericans for Peace NowJ Street, andInternational Campaign for Human Rights in Iran have  all come out against new Senate sanctions. Groups including AIPAC and Foundation for Defense of Democracies are, as usual, advocating more sanctions. AIPAC even says they will explicitly try to kill a deal.

But it looks like the pro-diplomacy side is winning.

Senators Carl Levin, Christopher Murphy, and Dianne Feinstein have all now come out in opposition to new Iran sanctions, saying they will instead support  the ongoing negotiations with Iran. And today, even Senator John McCain (R-AZ) told the BBC  today he will not support new sanctions for now, saying, “I am skeptical of talks with Iran but willing to give the Obama administration a couple months.”

Here are the three Senators who are leading the charge to protect diplomacy from a new sanctions push:

Senator Carl Levin (D-MI), Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee: “Whether it is a 10%, 40% or 60% chance [that the change is real], it should be tested and probed. We should not at this time impose additional sanctions.”

Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Chairwoman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence: “I am baffled by the insistence of some senators to undermine the P5+1 talks. I will continue to support these negotiations and oppose any new sanctions as long as we are making progress toward a genuine solution.”

Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT), Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee: “At this critical juncture in these negotiations when Iran may be on the verge of making serious concessions regarding its nuclear program, I worry it would be counterproductive for Congress to authorize a new round of sanctions, diminishing American leverage and weakening the hands of Secretary Kerry and his counterparts in the P5+1.”

While the House of Representatives voted in support of new sanctions just days before Rouhani’s inauguration, a recent letter calling for the Senate to support new sanctions drew less than half as many supporters as a previous letter supporting diplomacy and calling for sanctions to be traded in for Iranian nuclear concessions.

Now, it is now up to the Senate to decide whether to pass a sanctions bill opposed by the White House. The chamber has yet to advance their own  bill despite prodding from hawks like Mark Kirk (R-IL) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC). The most likely path for the new sanctions was the National Defense Authorization Act, expected to be on the Senate floor next week. But with the two Senators who will manage the bill – Levin and McCain – now opposed to adding sanctions, U.S. negotiators are likely to have more space to conduct talks and secure a framework for a deal without Congressional interference.

If the sanctions can successfully be paused, the next battle looms: Will Congress be able to accept a good deal that puts constraints on Iran’s nuclear program to protect against weaponization in exchange for sanctions relief? Or will they set unrealistic Bush-era demands, such as that Iran completely end even civilian nuclear work, to scuttle the talks? Stay tuned.

Follow Jamal Abdi on Twitter: www.twitter.com/jabdi


Get Your Senators to Support Diplomacy with Iran

July 29, 2013

Our action alert is below, and here is a terrific op-ed by Peace Action West’s Rebecca Griffin on the prospects for successful U.S. – Iran diplomacy.

Last month, the Iranian people elected a new president, Dr. Hassan Rouhani.  Dr. Rouhani won on the first ballot as Iranian voters demanded change. They rejected the hardliners competing in the election because they want improved relations with the West, an improved economy and greater freedoms.

With your support, and working with our allies, Peace Action helped Reps. Charlie Dent (R-PA) and David Price (D-NC) recruit signers for their letter to President Obama, calling on him to take advantage of this positive change.

Now we shift our focus to the Senate and I need your help to build support for a similar letter drafted by Senator Diane Feinstein (D-CA)

Your actions made a difference as 131 Members of the House of Representatives, including 17 Republicans and a majority of the Democrats — sent a letter to President Obama, asking him to “test whether Dr. Rouhani’s election represents a real opportunity for progress toward a verifiable, enforceable agreement on Iran’s nuclear program that ensures the country does not acquire a nuclear weapon.”

When Iran’s new President, Dr. Rouhani, called for a “policy of reconciliation and peace,” Iran’s people voted for positive change. Now it’s time for President Obama to renew diplomatic efforts toward an agreement that will satisfy the West that Iran will not acquire a nuclear weapon.

Please write your Senators now and make sure that they sign this important letter.

Thanks for taking action now.

Humbly for Peace,

 

Kevin Martin
Executive Director
Peace Action

PS: The letter will be sent later this week, so be sure to take action now.  Urge your Senators to co-sign a letter to the President asking him to take advantage of a new moderate President in Iran to reach a diplomatic solution to our disagreements with Iran.

Please forward this message to your family, friends and co-workers!  Thank you.

Begin Senator Feinstein’s letter:

Dear President Obama:

We urge you to seize the opportunity presented by the upcoming inauguration of Iran’s new president, Dr. Hassan Rouhani, by reinvigorating diplomatic efforts to secure a verifiable agreement that ensures that Iran does not develop nuclear weapons.

Since 2010 Congress has worked with your Administration to increase U.S. and international sanctions against Iran. The impact on Iran’s economy has been significant: the value of the Iranian rial against the U.S. dollar has declined more than 185 percent since 2011, unofficial estimates of inflation range as high as 70 percent, exports of oil have been halved, Iranian oil production has declined 35 percent to 2.6 million barrels per day, the Iranian economy declined by as much as 8 percent between March 2012 and March 2013 and is set to decline further in the next year, and unemployment estimates range as high as 20 percent.

With economic and political difficulties facing the Iranian people, the election of Dr. Rouhani is a clear demonstration of their desire to step away from the policies of his predecessor. Dr. Rouhani campaigned on the notion of repairing Iran’s relationship with the West, he criticized the Ahmadinejad government’s posture in nuclear negotiations, and he strongly and appropriately condemned Ahmadinejad’s abhorrent comments directed at Israel as hate rhetoric. Rouhani has also publicly warned that developing a nuclear arsenal would not provide Iran security dividends and has indicated Iran’s readiness to increase the transparency of its nuclear program. These events, taken together, provide an opening for negotiation.

As a result, we believe the U.S. should reinvigorate diplomatic efforts to determine whether Dr. Rouhani is truly willing to engage the international community. Doing so is the only way to reach a verifiable agreement, including limits on Iran’s enrichment and other sensitive nuclear activities and greater cooperation with the IAEA, that ensures that Iran will not develop nuclear weapons.

We believe that the United States should make it clear that existing bilateral and multilateral sanctions against Iran can only be lifted through progress at the negotiating table, and only if Iran takes proportionate steps that would sufficiently demonstrate its commitment to forgoing nuclear weapons. While a comprehensive resolution to the nuclear impasse may prove elusive in the near term, presenting Iran with intermediate measures to make progress could be the best approach for determining whether the Iranian government is serious.

Our nation’s security and the stability of the Middle East depend upon the resolution of this long standing dispute. As you examine America’s options on Iran over the next several months, we stand ready to work with your administration toward a peaceful settlement.

Sincerely,


What We Learned in Congressional Hearings Last Week (“We Could Tell You, But Then We’d Have to Kill You”)

April 19, 2013

Well, the good folks at truthout changed the header on my op-ed to a less colorful “North Korea and U.S. Special Ops Forces” but still glad they published it. Copyright Truthout.org, reprinted with permission.

North Korea and US Special Ops Forces

Friday, 19 April 2013 10:56By Kevin MartinSpeakOut | ONormally I prefer it when Congress is not in session in Washington, reasoning our legislators can do us no harm, or less harm anyway, when they are back home in their districts meeting with constituents and/or pandering to and raising money from corporate special interests.

However this week, two congressional hearings shed light on some very interesting, previously unknown (or at least not widely known) facts related to our “national security.”

The first, earlier this week, came at a Senate Armed Services subcommittee hearing on emerging threats. As reported by Walter Pincus for the Washington Post, the head of U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM in military shorthand), Admiral William McRaven, stated, “On any day of the year you will find special operations forces [in] somewhere between 70 and 90 countries around the world.”

Now this number surprised me very much. Had I been asked to guess, I might have said we have special ops forces in maybe half that number of countries. On the other hand, given that the U.S. has somewhere between 800 and over 1,000 foreign military bases around the world (there is no consensus on how to even count them), as well as an overall unprecedented global military footprint, maybe I shouldn’t have been surprised at the 70 to 90 number. It may in fact be low.

Pincus’s article hinted at not only the increased role of Special Ops (which, along with drone strikes, are preferred means of projecting U.S. military might as the military seeks to reduce boots on the ground in some regions of the world), but also its growing budget (“Special Operations wins in 2014 budget”). Of course the budget, along with the number of countries, not to mention what the special ops forces are doing, all fall into the “we could tell you, but then we’d have to kill you” category.

Which is ludicrous, since we taxpayers foot the bill for all of this special opping. Shouldn’t we know what the tab is, and be able to judge if it’s worth it? Is this making us safer, or earning us more enemies around the world? Is this a good priority for our tax dollars, or would we feel more secure investing instead in our improving our schools, re-building our aging infrastructure, creating jobs and affordable housing and investing in green energy sources?

The Obama White House, which is failing miserably in its pledge to be the most transparent administration ever, should heed the adage that sunlight is the best disinfectant, and release the budget, list of countries we’re on the ground in, and various missions of the Special Operations Command.

The second illuminating hearing, of the House Armed Services Committee, was held Thursday. As was widely reported, U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-CO) revealed a Defense Intelligence (oxymoron alert!) Agency report that, counter to widely held belief, North Korea has the capability to hit the United States with a nuclear-armed missile, though the weapon’s reliability would be low. The Obama Administration and other government spokespeople were quick to either disavow the DIA finding or point out this is not a consensus position of the U.S. intelligence community.

On this one, I’m inclined to the skeptical view. Miniaturizing a nuclear warhead, fitting it atop a missile that has to fly across the North Pole or the world’s largest ocean, come close to its target and explode at the right time, well this is called “rocket science.” North Korea’s ain’t anywhere close to ours.

Do you know what’s not rocket science? Understanding North Korea’s government isn’t crazy, paranoid or irrational. Their recent nuclear and missile tests, as well as other provocative actions and threats, while regrettable, are the moves of an isolated, impoverished country targeted as part of the “Axis of Evil” by our previous president. It keenly observed what happened to the other two, sanctioned-to- death, invaded, regime-changed and occupied Iraq, and sanctioned-to-death and threatened with “all options on the table” Iran. Both lacked nuclear weapons of their own to deter U.S. (and Israeli, in the case of Iran) aggression, so North Korea learned the obvious lesson about nuclear weapons – “we better get us some.” Moreover, North Korea has long faced the overwhelming economic, political and especially military power of the U.S. and South Korea.

While recently the U.S. has correctly backed off plans to escalate military pressure on the North, in the last few weeks it conducted massive war games with South Korea, with the stated objective of preparing for regime change or collapse in the North. U.S. B-2s and B-52s ran simulated nuclear attacks on North Korea, and F-22 fighter jets were moved to the South. If you were in the North Korean government, wouldn’t you be pretty jumpy right about now?

Putting out the fire with gasoline is not what we need. Let’s hope Secretary of State John Kerry’s trip to the region succeeds in calming the situation on the Korean Peninsula. Calm, reasoned diplomacy is what we need, not military escalation and threats. Let’s also look longer term, to put in place steps leading to a peace treaty with North Korea (we have only a supposedly temporary armistice signed 60 years ago at the end of the Korean War) and denuclearization of the region, and the world.

Nuclear deterrence clearly isn’t working; if it were, wouldn’t the U.S.’s massive nuclear arsenal of over 5,000 warheads, most of which are tens or hundreds of times more powerful than the Hiroshima bomb which killed over 130,000 people, be dissuading North Korea from threatening to attack us, whether the threat is credible or not? Nuclear disarmament would make the region and the world much safer, and cost a lot less to boot.

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license. It may not be reproduced in any form without permission or license from the source.


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