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 Congress: Don’t Kill the Iran Deal

April 8, 2015

peace girl

You have worked with us for nearly a decade to ensure that Iran does not acquire a nuclear weapon, and that result comes via diplomacy, not war.  Our efforts, in coordination with a large coalition of organizations, combined with President Obama’s  determination, led to a historic framework agreement with Iran on its nuclear program, announced last week.

Take a quick moment to tell Congress not to torpedo this framework that will make us safer.

This critical agreement achieves two important things:

  1. If Iran decided to build a nuclear weapon (and that is a big if) the time it would take to produce enough fissile material for a crude weapon would be at least one year, giving the international community plenty of time to act.
  2. The International Atomic Energy Association (IAEA) will have unprecedented inspections and monitoring of Iran’s nuclear program from soup to nuts and can inspect any suspected covert sites as well.
    In exchange for the above Iran would receive economic sanctions relief.

Write Congress now to support this Iran deal that will avert war and lesson Middle East tensions.

If we stopped negotiating with Iran and it reversed the cutbacks in its nuclear program it would have the capacity to make enough nuclear bomb material for one crude weapon in only two to four months.  This agreement extends that four to six times by reducing Iran’s centrifuges by 2/3 and allowing it to use only old technology for 10 years, reducing its stockpile of low enriched uranium by 97% for 15 years and by reconfiguring its nuclear reactor so no weapons grade plutonium will be made, nor could be reprocessed, indefinitely.

Let’s not forget what the alternatives are.  We could stop negotiating with Iran and it could lower its time to get enough materials for a crude bomb to two months or less.  This might threaten Israel enough that it would take military action.  The U.S. could take military action that might push back Iran’s nuclear program by a few years, start a major war in the Middle East and encourage Iran to produce a nuclear weapon as soon as possible.

Speaking of war, already neocons like Sen. McCain, Bill Kristol and John Bolton have either alluded to or directly called for U.S. bombing of Iran.  We all remember the Iraq war.  Iran is nearly four times the size of Iraq with almost three times the population and a much larger military.  This is a horrific option and why the vast majority of Americans oppose military intervention with Iran.

Congress needs to hear from you that we need to let negotiators get a signed accord with Iran based on the strong framework already agreed to.

Even though the negotiators have until June 30th to finalize an agreement, some in Congress want to take legislative action that would most likely kill the bill.  Next week, Sen. Corker will mark up and try to bring to the floor a bill that would require Congress to take an up or down vote on any final deal, bar the President from relieving sanctions for months and require the nearly impossible task of guaranteeing that Iran is not funding any violent extremists.

Thanks again for your help in getting us this far and so very close to solving one of the national security conundrums of the decade.  Do take a moment to write your congressional delegation and ask them to support this agreement.

Humbly for Peace,

Paul Kawika Martin
Political Director
Peace Action

P.S. By sending a quick letter to Congress to oppose any legislation around Iran diplomacy, it will give the international community the best chance to finalize the historic framework agreement with Iran on its nuclear program.  Please edit the letter with your own words to give voice to your concerns and hopes for peace!


Peace Action’s Paul Kawika Martin on MSNBC.com – Why Congress should give a nuclear deal with Iran a chance

April 3, 2015

 peace girl

04/02/15 07:09 PM—UPDATED 04/02/15 07:21 PM

Today the United States, Iran, and other world powers announced significant progress on reaching a final agreement regarding Tehran’s nuclear program. The agreement is historic – initiating steps that will keep Iran from producing a nuclear weapon in exchange for lifting international sanctions against the country. But some in Congress seem determined to kill the deal.

RELATED: Obama praises Iran nuclear framework: ‘It is a good deal’

The arrangement between the international community and Iran on its nuclear program will keep Iran at least a year away from having the fissile material needed to make a crude nuclear weapon for at least ten years. Without an agreement, that timeline shrinks to a matter of weeks and the threat of war increases dramatically. If you think that a year is too short, note that is the time to make the weapons-grade material and leaves out time for testing, building a bomb, developing technologies to miniaturize the weapon to fit on missiles or other delivery systems. Governments will have plenty of time to act if Iran breaks the accord.

The success of these talks again proves that diplomacy works.
This agreement – which the United States, Russia, China, Britain and France, plus Germany (known as the P5+1) and Iran hope to finalize by a deadline of June 30 – will undoubtedly make Americans and the world safer by removing the possibility that another country will acquire nuclear weapons and possibly start an arms race in the Middle East.

Several recent polls show that Americans oppose military intervention with Iran by as much as 71% and support reaching an entente by nearly 60%. The success of these talks again proves that diplomacy works. The negotiations have already worked by rolling back Iran’s nuclear program and implementing intrusive inspections and thorough monitoring.

VIDEO: Solid foundation reached for ‘good deal’ with Iran, Kerry says

Instead of isolation, sanctions that don’t affect leaders, or military intervention that costs vast amounts of blood and treasure and untold long-term costs and unintended consequences, the U.S. continues to use dialogue, negotiations and the international community to solve conflict. These negotiations may pave the way for more discussions on issues like human rights and regional security that will further reduce Middle East tensions.

The finalized agreement will include five major components:

  • Decreasing the stockpile of material that could possibly be made into fissile material for 15 years.
  • Limiting the quantity (by two-thirds) and quality of centrifuges that could make highly enriched uranium needed for a nuclear bomb for 10 years.
  • Reconfiguring the nuclear reactor (and securing its spent fuel) in the city of Arak so it won’t produce any weapons-grade plutonium.
  • Implementing unprecedented and exhaustive inspections and comprehensive monitoring for 20 years or more.
  • And lastly, implementing the lifting of specific sanctions on Iran that, if Iran breaks the deal, will snap back into place.

An agreement with Iran on its nuclear program is better than any imaginable alternative. Military strategists have said over and over again that a military intervention with Iran would at best slightly delay any nuclear program and at worst force Iran to engage in getting a nuclear weapon even if they had no such program.

An agreement with Iran on its nuclear program is better than any imaginable alternative.

Any letters or legislation that offer more sanctions or tie the hands of the negotiators are clearly meant to kill the talks.  Poison pill bills like Republican Sen. Bob Corker’s, which could delay implementation of an agreement for months and throws up nearly-impossible certification hurdles, should be defeated. Scuttling negotiations would be short-sighted, considering an agreement with Iran on its nuclear program would likely lead to productive negotiations on other items of mutual concern.It is clear that the negotiations with Iran are headed toward an agreement that benefits all parties. Americans already support an agreement. Now Congress needs to show its support and refrain from thwarting an accord with any legislation.

Paul Kawika Martin is the political and policy director of Peace Action, and has been working on the Iran issue for more than eight years.


Diane Nash, George W. Bush, Selma and Our Understanding of Nonviolence

March 11, 2015

–Kevin Martin, Executive Director

In case you missed it, civil rights heroine Diane Nash, one of the relatively few women in leadership positions in the civil rights movement in the ’50s and ’60s (she was a key aide to Martin Luther King, Jr. and a founder of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee or SNCC) boycotted the 50th anniversary commemorative march in Selma, Alabama last weekend, not wanting to march with George W. Bush. (She was at the event, but her conscience wouldn’t let her be seen marching with Bush).

Nash said, “”I think the Selma Movement was about nonviolence and peace and democracy and George Bush stands for just the opposite—for violence and war and stolen elections,” also noting that his administration conducted torture. “George Bush’s presence is an insult to me and to people who really do believe in nonviolence,” Nash continued, voicing concern that the nonviolent legacy of the Selma Movement would now be “confused.”

I love the following part of Nash’s interview the most:

“Back in the 1960’s we did not know if nonviolence would work,” Nash told NewsOne. “Now we know that it does.” Nash said that she thought the Selma March anniversary “should have been a celebration of nonviolence,” which she added, was “definitely one of the most significant social inventions of the 20th century.”

A longtime respected colleague of mine voiced some mixed emotions about Ms. Nash’s position, stating he understood her but also that we need to welcome former adversaries when they join us.

I agree, and that certainly is in the spirit of nonviolence, if the former adversary is in fact transforming into an ally and “joining” us. If I thought that were true in George W. Bush’s case, I’d welcome him to the side of peace, social and economic justice, civil rights and nonviolence, though I’d be highly skeptical and would demand some accountability or at least repentance from him for his egregious actions as president. I see no evidence Bush is anywhere close to such a transformation.

What Bush’s appearance at the Selma commemoration does show is hard-earned mainstream respect for the courageous civil rights heroines and heroes and the social progress they sweated, bled and died for. But that has nothing to do with war criminals like Bush. Sister Nash was right, but that’s not really the point. From her comments I think it’s pretty clear that on a gut level her conscience just wouldn’t let her be at the same event as Bush, so it was much more a personal than political statement.

And of course Barack Obama, aka President DroneStrike, is no advocate of nonviolence, Nobel Peace Prize notwithstanding. We need to push him not just to conclude a peace deal with Iran, but also to end drone strikes and give up the madness of a new war in Iraq and Syria.

Thanks to Common Dreams and NewsOne for their reporting on Diane Nash’s powerful statement of conscience.


Peace Action’s Paul Kawika Martin on MSNBC.com — Is there an alternative to war with ISIS?

February 17, 2015

By Paul Kawika Martin

The world has been pouring fuel on the Middle East inferno, yet expect something other than a larger blaze. On Tuesday, President Obama submitted language to Congress for an Authorization of Use of Military Force (AUMF) against ISIS. More gas on the fire.

For six months now, Congress has ignored its constitutional duty to declare war by letting the Obama administration continue its military campaign against ISIS using the thinnest legal thread of past AUMFs over a dozen years old. It’s about time that Congress fully debate the U.S. war being waged in the Middle East.

At the end of the debate, I hope Congress comes to the same conclusion the president has proclaimed but refuses to act on: there is no military solution to ISIS. With that finding, Congress should oppose any new AUMF, repeal both outdated AUMFs and support political solutions and other actions to weaken ISIS.

“We need to prevent extremism in the first place by supporting education, religious tolerance, poverty alleviation, civil liberties and freedom.”

If Congress fails to see that the current military strategy is not degrading ISIS and feels it must pass a military authorization, then I encourage them to push for tighter restrictions in an AUMF than what President Obama proposed. Limitations could include a one-year sunset clause; geographic limitations; definitively no combat troops on the ground; repealing both former AUMFs, not just one; restricting combatants to ISIS; and robust reporting requirements including civilian deaths.The president’s proposed AUMF does one good thing: it repeals the outdated and ill-advised Iraq AUMF. It fails, however, to repeal the 2001 AUMF, which has been used as a blanket “war on terrorism.” Unfortunately, it uses the legally ambiguous language of no “enduring offensive ground operations” rather than expressly forbidding combat troops which is supported by a majority of Americans.

As it stands, it doesn’t seem that the current military strategy is working against ISIS. According to government reports, ISIS recruitment continues to keep pace or possibly outpace those killed in battle with foreign fighters coming in from 40 to 50 countries. ISIS continues to control the same amount of territory. And extremism continues to grow in Central Asia, North Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa. There are alternative solutions.

RELATED: Majority wants Congress to back Obama’s AUMF against ISIS

Reducing civilian deaths, casualties and the destruction of civilian infrastructure while increasing humanitarian aid and refugee support will decrease the recruiting of financial support and foreign fighters for ISIS.

Decrease its income by cracking down on oil sales and working with local communities to stop allowing its use of pipelines. Lower profits from illegal antiquities sales and the sex trade with more policing. Freeze ISIS assets and those connected to them. Diminish military resources by starving the regions of weapons and making travel more difficult for foreign fighters.

“In the end, preventing extremism is only way to keep groups like ISIS from forming in the first place.”

Support political solutions to the Syrian civil war and Iraqi ethnic tensions, two of the structural root causes of ISIS.Looking long term, we need to prevent extremism in the first place with international support for education, religious tolerance, poverty alleviation and civil liberties and freedom.

The above alternatives come at a much lower cost than the over $300,000 an hour for a total of nearly $2 billion the U.S. taxpayer has already paid for our lackluster military strategy. Add the long term costs of veterans care, interest on debt and opportunity costs and alternatives look like a bargain.

Also, these alternatives are far less likely to cause blowback or bad unintended consequences. One must ponder that the Iraq war created al Qaeda in Iraq, the precursor to ISIS, and they are now using arms and training provided by the U.S. and its allies. Similarly, the U.S. armed and funded the Afghan mujahideen to stop Soviet expansion not knowing that these rebels would one day become al Qaeda.

RELATED VIDEO: Is war against ISIS the answer?

Congress is likely to hold hearings regarding the AUMF over the next several weeks. This provides time for constituents to contact their senators and representative and voice their view. In 2013, when President Obama asked for an AUMF to bomb Syria, the war-weary public responded by contacting Congress ten-to-one against. Congress felt the pressure and an AUMF didn’t even get a vote.

While the president wants to continue a failed, expensive military strategy against ISIS, Congress can now debate and direct the White House to take alternative actions more likely to produce results. If Congress decides to follow the Obama administration, then a narrower AUMF is warranted. In the end, preventing extremism is only way to keep groups like ISIS from forming in the first place. It’s time to stop fanning the flames.

Paul Kawika Martin is the policy and political director for Peace Action, the United States’ largest grassroots peace organization and can be contacted on Twitter @PaulKawika.


Take Action to Stop Endless War

February 11, 2015

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After six months of Congress and the Administration ignoring their constitutional duty, today President Obama sent language to Capitol Hill to authorize war for the next three years (an Authorization for the Use of Military Force or AUMF) against ISIS.  During the last six months of this military strategy, many argue little progress against ISIS has been made.

Take a quick moment and write Congress demanding a vote against an ISIS AUMF and to support political and other alternative solutions rather than war. 

It’s about time that Congress fully debated the U.S. war being waged in the Middle East.  We agree with past statements of the president that there is no military solution and we oppose any AUMF.  That said, if one passes it should be much narrower than what President Obama proposes and include limitations such as:

*A one-year sunset clause
*Geographic limitations
*Definitively no combat troops on the ground
*Repealing both former AUMFs not just one
*Robust reporting requirements including civilian deaths

Act now by sending a brief letter to Congress asking for a full debate on war in the Middle East, and to oppose a new AUMF and support long-term solutions.

The president’s proposed AUMF does one good thing: it repeals the outdated and ill-advised Iraq AUMF.  It fails, however, to repeal the 2001 AUMF which has been used as a blanket “war on terrorism.”  Additionally, it uses the legally ambiguous language of no “enduring offensive ground operations.”  It’s not clear that this actually excludes combat troops.

As it stands, it doesn’t seem that the current military strategy is working.  Instead the international community should:

*Reduce civilian deaths, casualties and the destruction of civilian infrastructure that tends to recruit financial support and foreign fighters for ISIS.
*Weaken ISIS by reducing its income (oil, antiquities, sex trade), freezing assets, reducing military resources (weapons, training and foreign fighters).
*Support political solutions to the Syrian civil war and Iraqi ethnic tensions.
*Increase humanitarian aid and refugee support.
*Support actions that will help prevent extremism in the first place: education, religious tolerance, poverty alleviation and justice.

Congress has not voted on a war authorization regarding terrorism since 2001.  It’s time for a full debate in Congress on ISIS.  Make sure your voice is heard now.

 

Humbly for Peace,

 

Kevin Martin
Executive Director
Peace Action

P.S. – Today’s presidential proposal of the use of force (AUMF) against ISIS won’t work.  Write Congress now to oppose war and support activities that create a long-lasting peace.


Are the U.S. and Russian Governments Once Again on the Nuclear Warpath?

February 3, 2015

by Lawrence S. Wittner (Peace Action national board member)

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

A quarter century after the end of the Cold War and decades after the signing of landmark nuclear arms control and disarmament agreements, are the U.S. and Russian governments once more engaged in a potentially disastrous nuclear arms race with one another? It certainly looks like it.

With approximately 15,000 nuclear weapons between them, the United States and Russia already possess about 93 percent of the world’s nuclear arsenal, thus making them the world’s nuclear hegemons. But, apparently, like great powers throughout history, they do not consider their vast military might sufficient, especially in the context of their growing international rivalry.

Although, in early 2009, President Barack Obama announced his “commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons,” the U.S. government today has moved well along toward implementing an administration plan for U.S. nuclear “modernization.” This entails spending $355 billion over a ten-year period for a massive renovation of U.S. nuclear weapons plants and laboratories. Moreover, the cost is scheduled to soar after this renovation, when an array of new nuclear weapons will be produced. “That’s where all the big money is,” noted Ashton Carter, recently nominated as U.S. Secretary of Defense. “By comparison, everything that we’re doing now is cheap.” The Obama administration has asked the Pentagon to plan for 12 new nuclear missile-firing submarines, up to 100 new nuclear bombers, and 400 land-based nuclear missiles. According to outside experts and a bipartisan, independent panel commissioned by Congress and the Defense Department, that will bring the total price tag for the U.S. nuclear weapons buildup to approximately $1 trillion.

For its part, the Russian government seems determined to match―or surpass―that record. With President Vladimir Putin eager to use nuclear weapons as a symbol of Russian influence, Moscow is building, at great expense, new generations of giant ballistic missile submarines, as well as nuclear attack submarines that are reportedly equal or superior to their U.S. counterparts in performance and stealth. Armed with nuclear-capable cruise missiles, they periodically make forays across the Atlantic, heading for the U.S. coast. Deeply concerned about the potential of these missiles to level a surprise attack, the U.S. military has already launched the first of two experimental “blimps” over Washington, DC, designed to help detect them. The Obama administration also charges that Russian testing of a new medium-range cruise missile is a violation of the 1987 INF treaty. Although the Russian government denies the existence of the offending missile, its rhetoric has been less than diplomatic. As the Ukraine crisis developed, Putin told a public audience that “Russia is one of the leading nuclear powers,” and foreign nations “should understand it’s best not to mess with us.” Pravda was even more inflammatory. In an article published in November titled “Russia prepares a nuclear surprise for NATO,” it bragged about Russia’s alleged superiority over the United States in nuclear weaponry.

Not surprisingly, the one nuclear disarmament agreement signed between the U.S. and Russian governments since 2003―the New START treaty of 2011―is being implemented remarkably slowly. New START, designed to reduce the number of deployed strategic nuclear weapons (the most powerful ones) in each country by 30 percent by 2018, has not led to substantial reductions in either nation’s deployed nuclear arsenal. Indeed, between March and October 2014, the two nations each increased their deployed nuclear forces. Also, they maintain large arsenals of nuclear weapons targeting one another, with about 1,800 of them on high alert―ready to be launched within minutes against the populations of both nations.

The souring of relations between the U.S. and Russian governments has been going on for years, but it has reached a very dangerous level during the current confrontation over Ukraine. In their dealings with this conflict-torn nation, there’s plenty of fault on both sides. U.S. officials should have recognized that any Russian government would have been angered by NATO’s steady recruitment of East European countries―especially Ukraine, which had been united with Russia in the same nation until recently, was sharing a common border with Russia, and was housing one of Russia’s most important naval bases (in Crimea). For their part, Russian officials had no legal basis for seizing and annexing Crimea or aiding heavily-armed separatists in the eastern portion of Ukraine.

But however reckless the two nuclear behemoths have been, this does not mean that they have to continue this behavior. Plenty of compromise formulas exist―for example, leaving Ukraine out of NATO, altering that country’s structure to allow for a high degree of self-government in the war-torn east, and organizing a UN-sponsored referendum in Crimea. And possibilities for compromise also exist in other areas of U.S.-Russian relations.

Failing to agree to a diplomatic settlement of these and other issues will do more than continue violent turmoil in Ukraine. Indeed, the disastrous, downhill slide of both the United States and Russia into a vastly expensive nuclear arms race will bankrupt them and, also, by providing an example of dependence on nuclear might, encourage the proliferation of nuclear weapons to additional nations. After all, how can they succeed in getting other countries to forswear developing nuclear weapons when―47 years after the U.S. and Soviet governments signed the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, in which they pledged their own nuclear disarmament―their successors are engaged in yet another nuclear arms race? Finally, of course, this new arms race, unless checked, seems likely to lead, sooner or later, to a nuclear catastrophe of immense proportions.

Can the U.S. and Russian governments calm down, settle their quarrels peacefully, and return to a policy of nuclear disarmament? Let’s hope so.

– See more at: http://historynewsnetwork.org/article/158159#sthash.vfbjTQf5.dpuf


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