Thoughts on the way forward for the Iran nuclear deal

April 16, 2015

Geneseo chapter

-Kevin Martin, Executive Director

Starting with a great statement by journalist Robert Parry:

“The April 2 framework agreement with Iran represents more than just a diplomatic deal to prevent nuclear proliferation in the Middle East. It marks a crossroad that offers a possible path for the American Republic to regain its footing and turn away from endless war.”

Now some musings about our message focus and framing moving forward:

1. While we need to continue arguing the merits of a nuclear deal with Iran from various angles, I think it’s time to be a bit assumptive, play some offense, and help create an air of inevitability, which can help us dig in more on the politics, which are clearly going to be more important than the policy. The argument goes something like this:

“Like it or not, a nuclear deal with Iran is extremely likely to happen. Iran, the Obama Administration, P5+1 and international community has invested too much for it to fall apart at this point. Just about the only way a deal could get scuttled is by the U.S. Congress.  How could that happen? Who would benefit, or perhaps better asked as in whose interests would killing the deal be?

Most Republicans want to kill anything that has Obama’s name on it out of blind partisan loathing. No news flash there. But we shouldn’t let them off the hook. When push comes to shove, to they really want to undermine the President of the United States for their partisan gain, or for their perceived notion of the interests of Israel or Saudi Arabia? I don’t see the harm in raising those questions, not likely to move them, but to help isolate them if they don’t budge.

The key to supporting or upholding a deal (in case there is the need for the President to veto any deal-killing legislation passed by Congress) will be Democrats, even more likely liberal/progressive Dems, some who have been either silent, insufficiently supportive of the Administration’s diplomacy, or outright opponents of a deal. Some are frankly disingenuous, saying they want peace and support diplomacy while advocating completely unrealistic conditions for a deal (Alan Grayson stands out right now). Some are, acknowledged or not, “pro-Israel hawks” or at least highly susceptible to AIPAC et al pressure. They’ll have to be smoked out – do they support the president of their party, and what their base wants, what the world wants, or what AIPAC wants? If the latter, they are helping make a war more likely.

Here is a pretty good analysis going more deeply into some of the political questions, both domestic and international:

http://www.opednews.com/articles/The-Iran-Deal-Who-is-agai-by-Steven-Jonas-Iran_Iran-Arms-Industry_Iran-Embargo_Iran-Russia-Alliance-150415-150.html

2. Back to the policy, which reinforces our message on the politics (I think)

We might want to consider broadening our messaging to address re-balancing regional concerns and U.S. policy so it’s not all about Saudi Arabia and Israel, and the possibility of a new, transformed, positive relationship between the American and Iranian peoples (perhaps phrased like that, rather than between governments).

The latter is fairly self-evident I think, emphasizing that a deal on the nuclear issue could open up all kinds of economic and social benefits to the peoples of the two countries. It’s positive, peaceful, visionary. We should also emphasize the sanctions mostly hurt ordinary Iranians, not the mullahs or oligarchs. I don’t think we’ve gone far enough in “humanizing” the Iranian people, which I know seems simplistic but the level of demonization of an entire country for decades is tough to overcome.

The former is harder, maybe out of our reach. Certainly many elites and Members of Congress advocate Iran remaining in the penalty box forever, regardless of what happens with the nuclear program, and want U.S. policy to continue to privilege Saudi/Gulf states and Israeli interests indefinitely. I doubt they’d see it this way, but Obama, Kerry and co. have actually gone pretty far in bucking that elite consensus with the Iran negotiations.

Perhaps the way to frame this is to get the U.S. on the right side of inevitability. Iran is going to get out of the penalty box, we may become isolated from our allies if we hew to a hard line. Iran is going to play a key role in the region, there are already common interests between the U.S. and Iran, Saudi Arabia and Israel are not going to dominate considerations of US policy in the region forever. There may well be a democratic revolution in Iran in the next decade so let’s be on good terms with the Iranian people, and a deal on nukes is the first step in all of this.

As the sign above says, Peace Demands Action, so we need to stay very engaged as the Congressional deliberations and international negotiations proceed.

I’d love to hear others’ thoughts, criticisms, alternative suggestions.


Tell the Senate to support patient, persistent diplomacy with Iran

January 16, 2015

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The U.S. and its international allies are within reach of a peaceful resolution to the issue of Iran’s nuclear program. Negotiations about Iran’s nuclear program look very promising, with a framework agreement likely by March and a final deal possible by a June deadline. You may have seen promising media reports in the last day or two about negotiations in Geneva between Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif, which is very good news.

However, conservative senators and even some supposed liberals are dead set on imposing new economic sanctions on Iran, which will risk scuttling the talks and putting us on a reckless path toward yet another Middle East war.

Contact your senators today and tell them diplomacy is the only answer, not more sanctions and threats of war.

We stopped sanctions last year, and intend to do it again, but your senators need to hear from you today. The new sanctions bill is scheduled to move through the Senate Banking Committee starting next week, with a full Senate vote expected in February or March. That may sound like we have a bit of time, but, unfortunately, pro-sanctions forces are lobbying hard, and senators may well decide their positions on this issue very soon, so this alert is extremely urgent.

While some senators claim their push for new sanctions is intended to support diplomacy, Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR) let the cat out of the proverbial bag, stating “The end of negotiations isn’t an unintended consequence of congressional action; it’s an intended consequence.”

Please take a few minutes to contact your senators today.

This may be one of the most important actions for peace you could take this or any year. After you’ve sent your email to your senators, if you want to do more, please visit our Peace Blog for a target list of Democratic senators and sample letters to the editor for you to write a letter to your local newspaper, still one of the best ways for us to get our views out to a wide audience (and to senators as well, their staffs monitor the letters to the editor pages religiously).

Humbly for Peace,

 

Kevin Martin
Executive Director
Peace Action

P.S. – When you go to our action page please take a few minutes to edit the letter to your senators in order to personalize your message.


Promote Peace in the Press! Tell Senate Dems to support diplomacy with Iran, not sanctions and war – Target List and Sample Letters to the Editor

January 15, 2015

peace girl

Senate Republicans, aided and abetted by some (even supposedly liberal) Democrats, are dead set on passing legislation to impose new economic sanctions on Iran, which will almost surely scuttle the promising negotiations around Iran’s nuclear program. Senators Mark Kirk (R-IL) and Bob Menendez (D-NJ) will introduce their new sanctions bill next week in the Senate Banking Committee. We stopped new sanctions last year and plan to do it again, but we need Senate Dems to hear loud and clear they must support patient, persistent diplomacy, not more sanctions and a push for another Middle East war.

Below is a target list of Democratic Senators, and then two sample letters to the editor you can use to write a letter to your local paper. Please edit and add your own points, but keep it short and sweet! Also please post any letters you get published on this blog.

Senate Democrats Target List:

Tier 1 – Dems who supported sanctions last Senate (13)

Michael F. Bennet (D-CO)

Richard Blumenthal (D-CT)

Cory Booker (D-NJ)

Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD) [BANKING]

Robert P. Casey, Jr. (D-PA)

Christopher Coons (D-DE)

Joe Donnelly (D-IN) [BANKING]

Kirsten E. Gillibrand (D-NY)

Joe Manchin, III (D-WV)

Robert Menendez (D-NJ) [S 1881 Sponsor]  [BANKING]

Gary Peters (D-MI) [New Senator, made strong statement supporting new sanctions]

Charles E. Schumer (D-NY)

Mark R. Warner (D-VA)  [BANKING]

 

Tier 2 – Dems who did not support or oppose sanctions last Senate (14)

Tammy Baldwin (D-WI)

Sherrod Brown (D-OH) [BANKING]

Al Franken (D-MN)

Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND)  [BANKING]

Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI)

Amy Klobuchar (D-MN)

Edward J. Markey (D-MA)

Claire McCaskill (D-MO)

Jack Reed (D-RI)  [BANKING]

Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH)

Debbie Stabenow (D-MI)

Jon Tester (D-MT)  [BANKING]

Tom Udall (D-NM)

Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI)

 

Tier 3 – Banking Committee Dems who opposed sanctions last Senate (2)

Jeff Merkley (D-OR) [BANKING]

Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) [BANKING]

Please note Democratic senators not listed here are not considered priority targets, mostly because they firmly support continued diplomacy and oppose new sanctions. Senators Boxer and Feinstein from California and Durbin from Illinois, for examples, are in this category, it’s fine to write an attagirl/attaboy letter if you like!

 

Version #1 – Democratic Senator not yet taking a bad position re Iran sanctions or position unclear (Tiers 2 and 3 above)

To the editor:

The Obama Administration and its international partners are in the home stretch of negotiations with Iran to resolve concerns over its nuclear ambitions via patient, persistent diplomacy. A framework agreement to ensure Iran doesn’t develop nuclear weapons, in exchange for lifting punishing U.S. and international economic sanctions, is within reach over the next few months, and a final deal could be reached by a June deadline.

Some Senators, even some thought to be liberal Democrats, are supporting a bill to impose new sanctions on Iran, which will almost certainly scuttle negotiations and lead to calls for military action against Iran. That’s right, just what we don’t need, another Middle Eastern war!

Senator X has wisely [stood with the president, or not yet announced support for new sanctions] taken the position to give diplomacy a chance. An agreement to resolve the Iranian nuclear issue peacefully could well have other benefits in improving U.S.-Iranian economic and political relations, including working together more closely to bring badly needed stability to the region, a key shared interest of the U.S. and Iran.

None of that is likely if new sanctions are imposed by Congress and negotiations with Iran are scrapped. Senator X is wise to stand up for diplomacy, not more war.

Sincerely,

[Your name and address]

Version #2 – Democratic Senator supporting increased sanctions on Iran (Tier 1 above)

To the editor;

What is Senator X thinking regarding diplomacy with Iran? He/she is supporting new economic sanctions on Iran, which might well scuttle the negotiations with Iran led by the Obama Administration and the P5 +1 countries (U.S., U.K., France, Germany, Russia and China). If the talks, which show great promise of reaching a deal to peacefully resolve concerns over Iran’s nuclear program by this summer, fall apart, Senator X will have helped lay the groundwork for yet another war in the Middle East. Surely the senator must understand this.

The American people [or the people of your state] don’t want another war. Neither do Iranians. Iranian President Rouhani, dealing with his own difficult domestic political constituencies, has floated the idea of taking a prospective nuclear deal to his people via a referendum. What a terrific show of democracy that would be! And it would no doubt win in a landslide. Iranians want an end to the severe economic sanctions crippling their economy and, like the majority of the world’s people, have no use for nuclear weapons.

It’s clear some powerful Iranian hardliners oppose a deal. Why is Senator X making common cause with them, instead of standing with their own party’s president, and the people of [your state]? The Senator needs to hear from [Marylanders, New Yorkers, Michiganders, New Jerseyans etc.] to get on the right side of this issue by supporting diplomacy, not further sanctions and a push toward war.

Sincerely,

[Your name and address]


Stop Selling Death

August 28, 2014
'Nuff said?

‘Nuff said?

 

Moving from conflict to conflict in the Middle East, trying to keep up with the politics and players involved, the unrelenting violence, the rising death toll and refugee crisis, is as difficult as it is depressing. 

There is one common thread however – from Gaza to Syria to Iraq to Egypt to Libya to Afghanistan — U.S. military intervention and an ever-ready supply of U.S weapons pouring into the region make matters worse.

Let’s stop fanning the flames of war.  Sign Peace Action’s petition to restrict and limit U.S. weapons sales

U.S. weapons provided to the Iraqi Army are now in the hands of extremists who are close to tearing the country apart.  The success of the extremist offensive has led them to declare themselves the Islamic State, stretching into Syria where they have been fighting to overthrow the Assad government alongside other rebels being vetted by the U.S. to see who is worthy of receiving yet more U.S. weapons transfers, just what the region doesn’t need.

The U.S. leads the world in weapons sales. That includes the sale of weapons to undemocratic regimes and nations on the U.S. State Department’s list of human rights abusers. Tell Congress and the President it’s time to stop selling weapons to dictators and governments that turn U.S. weapons on civilian populations.

We need a new foreign policy, one that reflects America’s values and goodwill, one that relies more on patient diplomacy and humanitarian assistance and far less on weapons and war.

Humbly for Peace,

Kevin Martin
Executive Director
Peace Action

P.S. – Now, faced with war raging in the Middle East, a region awash in U.S. weapons, it is time again to push Congress and the Obama administration to end the practice of arming dictators and human rights abusers.


Interview on Iraq on Radio New Zealand

June 30, 2014

Our executive director Kevin Martin was interviewed about the situation in Iraq by Radio New Zealand on Saturday, give it a listen, it’s the second link on this page. Kevin’s interview follows an excellent commentary by Wayne Brittenden at about 4:50 minutes in.

 

 


Letter from 32 peace organizations to the president urging U.S. participation in Mexico conference on nuclear weapons

February 6, 2014

This letter is a follow-up to one we sent the president last year, as well as a petition campaign that garnered over 25,000 signatures, urging U.S. participation in multilateral nuclear disarmament fora. Next week, governmental and non-governmental reps will convene in Nuevo Vallarta, Mexico for the second conference on the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons (the U.S. and other nuclear states skipped last year’s meeting in Oslo, Norway). Reliable sources had said the U.S. was considering participating in the Mexico conference, but there has been no announcement on this to date. Last week’s email action alert generated over 2200 Peace Action supporters’ emails to the president (thank you!) and other organizations including Physicians for Social Responsibility and Nuclear Age Peace Foundation have also generated emails to President Obama on the Mexico conference. The letter below is also posted on the website of our colleague organization, the Lawyers Committee for Nuclear Policy.

–Kevin Martin

January 29, 2014
President Barack Obama

The White House 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue Washington, DC 20500

Mr. President,
The 2010 Nuclear Posture Review Report rightly declared: “It is in the U.S. interest and that of all other nations that the nearly 65-year record of nuclear non-use be extended forever.” On February 13-14 in Mexico, governments will gather for a second conference on the consequences of nuclear explosions. The point is to develop and disseminate understanding of the consequences, and the inability to respond adequately to them, so as to reinforce the determination, well expressed in the Report, that nuclear weapons must never be used again.
The United States should be there. The aim – and the focus on catastrophic consequences – is completely in accord with your speeches in Prague, Berlin, and elsewhere. In Prague you said: “One nuclear weapon exploded in one city – be it New York or Moscow, Islamabad or Mumbai, Tokyo or Tel Aviv, Paris or Prague – could kill hundreds of thousands of people. And no matter where it happens, there is no end to what the consequences might be – for our global safety, our security, our society, our economy, to our ultimate survival.”
As representatives of organizations working for the global elimination of nuclear weapons, we respectfully urge that you direct the State Department to send a delegation to the Mexico conference and to participate constructively.
We last wrote you by letter dated June 6, 2013 to urge that you speak at the September 26, 2013 United Nations High-Level Meeting on Nuclear Disarmament. While regrettably there was no high-level US representative at the meeting, the United States did make a statement and also joined in a statement made by a UK mission policy advisor (!) on behalf of the United Kingdom, France, and United States.
It would have been better if the joint statement had not been made at all. It conveyed a profoundly negative attitude toward the multiple efforts being made in international forums to stimulate progress on achieving and sustaining a world free of nuclear weapons, stating: “And while we are encouraged by the increased energy and enthusiasm around the nuclear disarmament debate, we regret that this energy is being directed toward initiatives such as this High-Level Meeting, the humanitarian consequences campaign, the Open-Ended Working Group and the push for a Nuclear Weapons Convention.”

In the remaining three years of your Presidency, we strongly urge that your administration shed that negative attitude and participate constructively in deliberations and negotiations regarding the creation of a multilateral process to achieve a nuclear weapons free world. Opportunities will arise in the Conference on Disarmament, the NPT Review Process, and the UN General Assembly.
Regarding the Conference on Disarmament, in December 2013 the General Assembly adopted a new resolution following up on the High-Level Meeting. The resolution calls for “the urgent commencement of negotiations, in the Conference on Disarmament, for the early conclusion of a comprehensive convention” to prohibit and eliminate nuclear weapons. Rather than reflexively rejecting that call, the United States should engage in good faith in efforts to make the Conference on Disarmament productive in pursuing the objective for which it was established more than three decades ago: complete nuclear disarmament.
Finally, your administration should work hard to convene soon the conference on a zone free of WMD in the Middle East promised by the 2010 NPT Review Conference. Prospects for movement on substantive issues are appreciably higher now than they were a year ago, due to the praiseworthy US-Russian initiative on disarmament of the Syrian chemical weapons arsenal and the encouraging progress on reaching a permanent settlement of disputes over Iran’s nuclear program.
We would appreciate a reply to this letter, and would be happy to meet to discuss the matters it addresses.
Sincerely,
John Burroughs, Executive Director, Lawyers Committee on Nuclear Policy
[contact for this letter: johnburroughs@lcnp.org; (212) 818-1861;
866 UN Plaza, Suite 4050, New York, NY 10017]
Joseph Gerson, Disarmament Coordinator, American Friends Service Committee
Kevin Martin, Executive Director, Peace Action
Jacqueline Cabasso, Executive Director, Western States Legal Foundation
David Krieger, President, Nuclear Age Peace Foundation

Ashish Sinha, Program Director, Alliance for Nuclear Accountability
Henry Lowendorf, Chair, Greater New Haven Peace Council
Alfred L. Marder, Honorary President, International Association of Peace Messenger Cities
Alice Slater, Director, Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, New York
Marylia Kelley, Executive Director, Tri-Valley CAREs (Communities Against a Radioactive Environment)
Tim Judson, Acting Executive Director, Nuclear Information & Resource Service
Baria Ahmar, Canada/Lebanon coordinator, Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament
Blase Bonpane, Ph.D., Director, Office of the Americas
Sr. Patricia Chappell, SNDdeN, Executive Director, Pax Christi USA
Sheila Croke, Pax Christi Long Island Council
The Rev. David W. Good, Tree of Life Educational Fund
Nydia Leaf, Granny Peace Brigade (New York)
Paul Hodel, Promoting Enduring Peace
Odile Hugonot Haber, Co-Chair, Middle East Committee, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom – US
Alan Haber, The Megiddo Peace Project.
David Hartsough, Executive Director, PEACEWORKERS, San Francisco
Valerie Heinonen, o.s.u., Director, Shareholder Advocacy, Dominican Sisters of Hope, Mercy Investment Services, Inc. and Ursuline Sisters of Tildonk, U.S. Province
Margaret Melkonian, Executive Director, Long Island Alliance for Peaceful Alternatives

Sr. Rosemarie Pace, Pax Christi New York
Rob van Riet, Coordinator, Disarmament Program, World Future Council
Ellen Rosser, President, World Peace Now
Rev. Kristin Stoneking, Executive Director, Fellowship of Reconciliation
Dr. Kathleen Sullivan, Program Director, Hibakusha Stories
David Swanson, cofounder, WarIsACrime.org
Carol Urner, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, 2014 Nuclear Weapons Abolition Campaign.
Alyn Ware, Member, World Future Council
Bill Wickersham, Adjunct Professor of Peace Studies, University of Missouri – Columbia
cc:
John Kerry, Secretary of State
Rose Gottemoeller, Acting Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security
Thomas M. Countryman, Assistant Secretary of State for International Security and Nonproliferation
Susan Rice, National Security Advisor
Ben Rhodes, Deputy National Security Advisor
Samantha Power, Permanent Representative to the United Nations
Christopher Buck, Chargé d’Affaires, a.i., Conference on Disarmament


The Endless Arms Race

January 21, 2014

This article was published yesterday by History News Network. The author, Larry Wittner, is a national Peace Action board member and distinguished author, emeritus professor and activist.

 

by Lawrence S. Wittner

 

Lawrence S. Wittner (http://lawrenceswittner.com) is Professor of History emeritus at SUNY/Albany. His latest book is a satirical novel about university corporatization, What’s Going On at UAardvark?

 

Image via Wiki Commons.

It’s heartening to see that an agreement has been reached to ensure that Iran honors its commitment, made when it signed the 1970 nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), to forgo developing nuclear weapons.

But what about the other key part of the NPT, Article VI, which commits nuclear-armed nations to “cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament,” as well as to “a treaty on general and complete disarmament”? Here we find that, 44 years after the NPT went into force, the United States and other nuclear powers continue to pursue their nuclear weapons buildups, with no end in sight.

On January 8, 2014, U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced what Reuters termed “ambitious plans to upgrade [U.S.] nuclear weapons systems by modernizing weapons and building new submarines, missiles and bombers to deliver them.” The Pentagon intends to build a dozen new ballistic missile submarines, a new fleet of long-range nuclear bombers, and new intercontinental ballistic missiles. The Congressional Budget Office estimated in late December that implementing the plans would cost $355 billion over the next decade, while an analysis by the independent Center for Nonproliferation Studies reported that this upgrade of U.S. nuclear forces would cost $1 trillion over the next 30 years. If the higher estimate proves correct, the submarines alone would cost over $29 billion each.

Of course, the United States already has a massive nuclear weapons capability — approximately 7,700 nuclear weapons, with more than enough explosive power to destroy the world. Together with Russia, it possesses about 95 percent of the more than 17,000 nuclear weapons that comprise the global nuclear arsenal.

Nor is the United States the only nation with grand nuclear ambitions. Although China currently has only about 250 nuclear weapons, including 75 intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), it recently flight-tested a hypersonic nuclear missile delivery vehicle capable of penetrating any existing defense system. The weapon, dubbed the Wu-14 by U.S. officials, was detected flying at ten times the speed of sound during a test flight over China during early January 2014. According to Chinese scientists, their government had put an “enormous investment” into the project, with more than a hundred teams from leading research institutes and universities working on it. Professor Wang Yuhui, a researcher on hypersonic flight control at Nanjing University, stated that “many more tests will be carried out” to solve the remaining technical problems. “It’s just the beginning.” Ni Lexiong, a Shanghai-based naval expert, commented approvingly that “missiles will play a dominant role in warfare, and China has a very clear idea of what is important.”

Other nations are engaged in this arms race, as well. Russia, the other dominant nuclear power, seems determined to keep pace with the United States through modernization of its nuclear forces. The development of new, updated Russian ICBMs is proceeding rapidly, while new nuclear submarines are already being produced. Also, the Russian government has started work on a new strategic bomber, known as the PAK DA, which reportedly will become operational in 2025. Both Russia and India are known to be working on their own versions of a hypersonic nuclear missile carrier. But, thus far, these two nuclear nations lag behind the United States and China in its development. Israel is also proceeding with modernization of its nuclear weapons, and apparently played the key role in scuttling the proposed U.N. conference on a nuclear weapons-free zone in the Middle East in 2012.

This nuclear weapons buildup certainly contradicts the official rhetoric. On April 5, 2009, in his first major foreign policy address, President Barack Obama proclaimed “America’s commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons.” That fall, the UN Security Council — including Russia, China, Britain, France, and the United States, all of them nuclear powers — unanimously passed Resolution 1887, which reiterated the point that the NPT required the “disarmament of countries currently possessing nuclear weapons.” But rhetoric, it seems, is one thing and action quite another.

Thus, although the Iranian government’s willingness to forgo the development of nuclear weapons is cause for encouragement, the failure of the nuclear nations to fulfill their own NPT obligations is appalling. Given these nations’ enhanced preparations for nuclear war — a war that would be nothing short of catastrophic — their evasion of responsibility should be condemned by everyone seeking a safer, saner world.

– See more at: http://hnn.us/article/154488#sthash.dJhQuAEk.dpuf


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