Monday, June 30, 2008

Shirin Ebadi Named Foreign Policy's #10 Top Public Intellectual

In its May issue, Foreign Policy Magazine named the worlds top 100 public intellectuals and then asked readers to vote for those they deemed most worth of top honors. More than 500,000 votes were cast and Shirin Ebadi placed as #10. According to Foreign Policy, "the top 10 public intellectuals in this year’s reader poll are all Muslim. The ideas for which they are known, particularly concerning Islam, differ significantly. It’s clear that, in this case, identity politics carried the day."

DeBorchgrave on Iran

Arnaud DeBorchgrave has a commentary in today's Washington Times in which he writes:

"Israel's message to its only ally, the United States was quite clear. Either President Bush orders military action or Israel will have to strike on its own. It can't wait till a new U.S. president is sworn in because the new White House tenant could well be Barack Obama. And Mr. Obama almost certainly would not approve an Israeli air strike without first going several extra miles on the U.N. and Western diplomatic track…If Israel were to attack Iran's nuclear facilities while Mr. Bush is still the commander in chief, China and Russia may be tempted to take a page out of Khruschchev's geopolitical playbook and rattle a few threatening economic missiles. This, in turn, would be designed to get Mr. Obama to disassociate himself from any hostile action Israel might have taken against Iran. And if that didn't elicit the desired result, Iran's formidable asymmetrical retaliatory capabilities would be unleashed throughout the Gulf in particular and the Mideast in general. Iran can also make life hell for U.S. forces in Iraq and NATO forces in Afghanistan. With U.S. consumer confidence already at a 16-year low, oil would quickly skyrocket to $400 or $500 a barrel. If, on the other hand, Sen. John McCain moves into the White House the afternoon of Jan. 20, he would presumably approve of Israeli bombing raids and Cruise missile strikes against Iran's nascent nuclear weapons capability. There is only thing worse than bombing Iran, Mr. McCain has said, and that is an Iranian nuclear bomb."

New House Resolution on Human Rights in Iran

On June 26, Representative Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-TX) introduced H.Res. 1310, which expresses “the sense of the House of Representatives that the Government of Iran's lack of protection for internationally recognized human rights creates poor conditions for religious freedom in the Islamic Republic of Iran.” The resolution is co-sponsored by Representatives Bob Filmore (D-CA) and Maurice Hinchey (D-NY). It was referred to the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

H.Res. 1310 resolves:

"That the House of Representatives--

(1) calls for the release of all religious prisoners in Iran and for United States officials, at the highest levels, to vigorously speak out publicly about the deteriorating conditions for freedom of thought, conscience, and religion or belief in Iran, including drawing attention to the need for the international community to hold authorities accountable in specific cases where severe violations have occurred;

(2) calls on the United Nations Human Rights Council to monitor carefully and demand compliance with the recommendations of the representatives of those special mechanisms that have already visited Iran, particularly those of the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief, the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, and the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion on Expression;

(3) encourages the United Nations Human Rights Council to continue to use its procedures to maintain oversight conditions for freedom of religion or belief in Iran, including, as Iran has issued a standing invitation, continued visits and reporting by the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief, and other relevant special rapporteurs and working groups;

(4) supports--

(A) the continued designation of Iran as a `country of particular concern' under the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 for its systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of religious freedom;

(B) funding budgeted to promote democracy and human rights in Iran that includes support for effective initiatives to advance freedom of religion or belief, as well as ways to promote rule of law programs that specifically seek to protect religious minorities;

(C) adequate funding for United States public diplomacy entities, such as Voice of America and Radio Farda, and the expansion and development of new programming solely focused on human rights, including the freedom of thought, conscience, and religion or belief, in Iran;

(D) supports the commission of an independent review of Voice of America Persian and Radio Farda to ensure that the programming reflects the basic tenants of freedom of information, equality, transparency, and journalistic integrity that America espouses;

(E) a United Nations General Assembly resolution condemning severe violations of human rights, including freedom of religion of belief, in Iran, and calling for officials responsible for such violations to be held accountable; and

(F) the establishment of a diplomatic envoy to the nation immediately to establish dialogue with the Government of Iran and deepen relationships with the Iranian people; and

(5) calls on the Government of Iran to--

(A) immediately release all prisoners who have been detained on account of their religion or belief;

(B) immediately release all prisoners of conscience who have been detained on account of their political dissidence;

(C) modify the draft penal code in order to respect the obligations under the international human rights conventions to which the Government of Iran is a party;

(D) uphold its international commitments by respecting and protecting the human rights of all its citizens; and

(E) ratify and fully comply with international human rights instruments and cooperated with United Nations human rights mechanisms."

Friday, June 27, 2008

A Diplomatic Overture?

According to an article in the Washington Post published on June 23, 2008, officials in the State Department are debating a proposal to open an interests section in Tehran, similar to the one the United States has operated in Havana since 1977 to process visas and host dissidents during holiday festivities.

Under different circumstances, an effort to establish an interests section, which would be housed by the Swiss Embassy in Tehran, would be a very welcome gesture to expand cultural and social ties between Iranians and Americans. However, rather than being a truly diplomatic gesture, the motivation behind the proposed intersection under this administration is unclear, but appears more to bolster U.S. efforts to undermine the Iranian government. According to the Washington Post article one official said, "It's not a softening. It does allow us to reach out to youth groups, to talk to dissidents. It's something the regime wouldn't like." While Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has neither confirmed nor denied the proposal, she also has said that the U.S. wants more contact with “ordinary Iranian citizens.”

By revealing to the media that the intersection would be used to reach out to dissidents, elements in the administration may be setting the proposal up for failure. Indeed, if the proposal shows any intention to undermine the Iranian government, it is likely to be rejected. If rejected, the administration could then accuse the Iranians of not being interested in diplomatic overtures.

According to a Los Angeles Times article, initial responses from Iran to the media reports of the proposal have been “frosty.” Musa Qorbani, a politician close to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, told The Times, “We do not trust the Americans. After a few days, we may figure out their motivations and what their intention is, then we will give our comment.” On June 26, Speaker of the Majlis (Iranian Parliament) Ali Larijani was quoted as saying that the proposal to establish a U.S. diplomatic interests section in Tehran is a “deceitful move.” According to Larijani, “I do not like to talk about rumors but it seems that some of these rumors are very sneaky.”

On the other hand, it is unlikely that if an interests section is approved staff would even realistically be able to woo Iranian students and dissidents given restrictions that would likely be placed on staff movement. Furthermore, credible dissidents and those working for democracy and reform in Iran are not at all interested in further undermining their own situation inside of Iran. Contrary to U.S. efforts to promote regime change, credible and prominent Iranian intellectuals, academics, dissidents and human rights defenders, many of whom have suffered increasing arrests and prosecutions, are ramping up their efforts to urge for a negotiated peaceful solution to the standoff between the U.S. and Iran.

Rather than pursuing counterproductive efforts aimed at undermining the Iranian government, the U.S. would do more for democracy and reform if it listened to what the people of Iran are saying – stop threatening military action and pursue a negotiated solution to the crisis.

In terms of the interests section, there may be a silver lining. If the U.S. does submit a proposal for an interests section and if the proposal is accepted, it could lay the groundwork for the next administration to expand credible diplomatic overtures to Iran.

Ron Paul on Potential Attacks Against Iran and H.Con.Res. 362

Congressman Gilchrest on H.Con.Res. 362

The following statement on H.Con.Res. 362 was delivered by Representative Wayne Gilchrest (R-MD) on June 26, 2008 (Congressional Record, p. H6148).


The SPEAKER pro tempore. Under a previous order of the House, the gentleman from Maryland (Mr. Gilchrest) is recognized for 5 minutes.

Mr. GILCHREST. Mr. Speaker, I want to speak today on Resolution 362 that is circulating in the House and its impact on policy in the Middle East.

As a result of Resolution 362 and its tightening of sanctions on Iran in a more broader way, will that have a positive impact on America's policy in the Middle East? Will it have a positive impact on the politics in the Middle East? Will it have a positive impact on Iran as far as the conflict between our two nations is concerned?

I will say, in my judgment, Mr. Speaker, that Resolution 362 will exacerbate, make much more difficult, the problems in the Middle East, the relationship of Iran with its neighbors in the Middle East, and the relationship of Iran with the United States, and the relationship of
Iran with the country of Israel. Let me try to explain why.

If we look at the Middle East right now in a very objective fashion, what is going on in the Middle East right now?

The geopolitical balance of power in the Middle East right now is fractured. We are focusing on the conflict in Iraq. We need as a Nation to focus objectively on the Palestinian-Israeli question, to resolve that issue, to reduce the number of recruits for al Qaeda and the Taliban.

We need to understand that Saudi Arabia, a Sunni country, does not want Iraq, a Shia country, to become an Iranian satellite.

We need to understand that Iran, who lost more men dead in a conflict with Iraq just a few years ago than we lost in World War I, World War II, Korea, and Vietnam combined, wants to have some influence in the Middle East and certainly with what will go on in Iraq.

What will influence the direction the Middle East will take in the decades to come? There is violent conflict there. There is political conflict there. There is mistrust in the Middle East.

Let me use a quote from Sam Rayburn, former Speaker of the House. "Any mule can kick a barn door down, but it takes carpenters to rebuild that door and that barn.''

We need carpenters. We need diplomats. More conflict, more restrictions, more sanctions is going to further exacerbate the problem in the Middle East and its relationship with the country of Iran.

One other quick comment. Iran is not an Arab country. Iran is a Persian nation that speaks Farsi, that does not speak Arabic. It is a nation of Shias with their own brand of Islam.

Knowledge and an informed policy in the Middle East, a surge of diplomacy, can make a key difference. Let me go back and express some precedence of the past about diplomacy and where it worked.

When Nikita Khrushchev said he was going to bury the United States, what was Eisenhower's response? He invited Nikita Khrushchev to the United States to tour the Nation, and it began to lessen the conflict between the two countries.

What did President Kennedy do when there were deployable nuclear weapons in Cuba aimed at the United States? He negotiated his way out of that conflict and saved a catastrophe.

What did Nixon do after Mao Zedong said it would be worth half the population of China being destroyed if we could destroy the capitalists in America? What did Nixon do? He had a dialogue. He went to China.

What happened when we did not have a dialogue, some understanding of Ho Chi Minh? A million people died.

Today in the Middle East we certainly need a strong military, we need a strong intelligence. But the aspect that is missing in the Middle East is what Eisenhower said was so critical in foreign policy; that is, consensus and dialogue.

Mr. Speaker, there are a number of Members in this house that have started a long time ago, a couple of years, beginning a dialogue with the Iranians. Just last fall, 58 Members of this House on both sides of the aisle signed a letter to the parliament in Iran asking for a parliamentary exchange; 58 Members of Republicans and Democrats. That letter was hand-delivered by some of us in Lisbon to Iranian parliamentarians. They took it to Iran. And what is their response to us? They want a dialogue. There are members of the Iranian parliament that want a dialogue. Consensus and dialogue.

We need more carpenters. Vote against Resolution 362.

Newsday Editorializes on H.Con.Res. 362

A Newsday editorial today on H.Con.Res. 362 concludes:

"Though the resolution doesn't use the word 'blockade,' its critics say that those restrictions would amount to one. They fear that this resolution could set off an unpredictable cascade of action-reaction that would help those in the Bush administration who still favor a military strike against Iran.

"Whether the fears are correct or not, this doesn't seem to qualify as a 'noncontroversial' resolution, a category usually reserved for statements lauding music education or deploring cancer. Let's have a full debate on this one. "

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Ackerman and Pence Respond to Blockade Issue

Today, Representatives Gary Ackerman and Mike Pence, the original co-sponsors of H.Con.Res. 362, circulated a "Dear Colleague" letter regarding controversial language in paragraph 3 of the non-binding resolution:

(3) demands that the President initiate an international effort to immediately and dramatically increase the economic, political, and diplomatic pressure on Iran to verifiably suspend its nuclear enrichment activities by, inter alia, prohibiting the export to Iran of all refined petroleum products; imposing stringent inspection requirements on all persons, vehicles, ships, planes, trains, and cargo entering or departing Iran; and prohibiting the international movement of all Iranian officials not involved in negotiating the suspension of Iran's nuclear program;

In the "Dear Colleague" letter, Representatives Ackerman and Pence state that "some have mistakenly suggested the resolution calls for a 'naval blockade' or even amounts to 'a declaration of war.' These assertions are absolutely false and, frankly, utter nonsense."

Controversy over the intentions and meaning of the language has lead Representatives Ackerman and Pence to go on the record. However, to improve the controversial resolution, they should strike both paragraphs three and four so that it can not be miscontrued or interpreted in a provocative way. They should also include a positive endorsement of direct talks and constructive diplomacy with Iran. The resolution could also be improved by modifying the "Whereas nothing in this resolution nor in any law previously enacted by this Congress shall be construed as an authorization of the use of force by the United States against Iran" and add an additional clause "Whereas the President shall consult with Congress, and receive specific authorization pursuant to law from Congress, prior to initiating any use of military force against Iran."

Below is the full text of the Ackerman-Pence "Dear Colleague" letter.

Dear Colleague:

We write to encourage you to join us as sponsors of H.Con.Res.362, a resolution expressing the sense of Congress regarding the threat posed to international peace, stability in the Middle East, and the vital national security interests of the United States by Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons and regional hegemony.

Iran is backing and arming militias and terrorists fighting the United States and our allies in both Iraq and Afghanistan; it is the proud patron of both the Hamas take-over in Gaza and the Hezbollah insurrection against the Lebanese government; it is the major funding source for numerous terrorist groups and, increasingly, Syria its fellow state-sponsor of terrorism, and it is radically reorienting regional security calculations. Meeting the threat posed by Iran is an urgent challenge that will require America to work closely with the international community, and especially with partners in the Middle East.

Though the stakes are high and time is short, the resolution is explicit in stating that meeting the challenge from Iran must be done using all appropriate political, diplomatic and economic levers. To our surprise and dismay, however, some have mistakenly suggested the resolution calls for a "naval blockade" or even amounts to "a declaration of war."

These assertions are absolutely false and, frankly, utter nonsense. The resolution states plainly and distinctly that "nothing in this resolution shall be construed as an authorization of the use of force against Iran;" the economic sanctions the President is urged to seek are explicitly placed in an international context; and the methods contemplated for achieving these sanctions are no different than those currently being employed to implement existing UN Security Council sanctions on Iran, namely enforcement of export controls by UN member states within their own borders.

The threat from Iran is real and growing, and must be addressed so that today's efforts by Iran at subversion and proliferation do not, tomorrow, become the seeds of new and more terrible conflict in the Middle East."

Monday, June 23, 2008

H.Con.Res. 362 Could Be Marked up in Committee

Sources indicated that H.Con.Res. 362 may now be marked up in the House Foreign Affairs Committee, to which it was referred on May 22, 2008, before it is placed on the Suspension calendar for a vote. The legislation is not (yet) on the Suspension calendar for this week, but sources do continue to indicate that a vote is imminent.

A Congressional insider also examined the bill closely and told me that the language is ambiguous and could be construed in either a provocative or a benign way. The source asked, “What does it mean if it doesn’t mean a blockade? There are innocuous ways to interpret it, but why not just make clear what they mean?” The source also said the language depends on how you define a blockade and referred to President John F. Kennedy declaring a "quarantine" during the Cuban Missile Crisis because he was told by lawyers that to declare a "blockade" was clearly an act of war. The source also said the term “departing” in clause 3 is of particular concern.

If the bill will be marked up in the House Foreign Affairs Committee first, it presents an opportunity for Members of Congress to change the provocative language and also go on record regarding their intentions with this legislation.

Response from International Lawyer on Blockade Issue

As promised, I will post responses today I have received from lawyers who are experts in international law regarding H.Con.Res. 362 and whether it could be construed as calling on the President to pursue a blockade against Iran.

Here is one response I received:

"Here the concurrent resolution is asking the President to do something which cannot possibly be done effectivly without the use of force while disclaiming that it authorizes the use of force. Nice try, but no cigar.

"If the US were to do unilaterally what clause 3 of H.Con. Res. 362 demands, it would clearly be a violation of international law on any number of grounds, the main one being the principle of freedome of the seas. But it doesn't do that; it only asks the President 'to initiate an international effort.' If that effort were successful and the Security Council passed a resolution calling on all UN members to implement clause 3 as a threat to the peace under Ch. VII of the UN Charter, that could conceivably be legal, since the International Court of Justice has ruled in the Libyan case that anything the Security Council does is legal. But I don't see that happening.

"The same thing goes for the sanctions called for in Clause 2, i.e. they would constitute violations of international law if applied unilaterally by the US. That, however, is something the US could do unilaterally, since it wouldn't require a Security Council resolution and the US doesn't give a damn about international law. It would merely require an extension of the Iran Sanctions Act.

"To return to your original question, does the Ackermann/Pence resolution call for a blockade? Not necessarily. Whether a given behavior by one or more states constitutes a blockade is a question of fact. In other words, it would depend on how the intent of clause 3 was implemented.

"It is difficult to see how ships 'entering' Iran could be subjected to 'stringent inspection' without the use of force. On the other hand, communications destined for or arriving from Iran could be intercepted in any number of ways, most of them illegal, but many of them undoubtedly already in force.

"I don't know if that helps, but it's such a stupidly worded resolution that it's almost impossible to get a handle on it."

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Senate Finance Committee Approves 'Iran Sanctions Act of 2008'

On June 18, the Senate Finance Committee held a hearing to mark up an original bill, the “Iran Sanctions Act of 2008.” Despite opposition to provisions in the bill from members of the Committee and the Bush administration, the committee overwhelming approved the bill 19-2.

On June 17, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice wrote Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) urging two provisions in the legislation be dropped – the requirement to list and impose sanctions against U.S. parent companies with independent foreign subsidiaries that do business with Iran; and the provision barring entry into force of the civil nuclear cooperation agreement (123 agreement) between the U.S. and Russia.

Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) led an effort to strip out the language blocking the Russia agreement, but it failed 4-15. The other Senators who voted in favor of the Bingaman effort were John D. Rockefeller IV (D-WV), Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) and Maria Cantwell (D-WA).

The Finance Committee passed an amendment by voice vote introduced by Senator Jim Bunning (R-KY) to impose a 180-day limit on investigations into whether companies are doing business with Iran. According to Senator Bunning, the administration’s reluctance to sanction companies has led to interminable investigations with no conclusion.

Lobbyists for European countries were out in full force on Capitol Hill lobbying against the bill.

The Senate Banking and Foreign Relations Committees are also claiming jurisdiction over the bill. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Joseph Biden (D-DE) and Ranking Member Richard Lugar (R-IN) both oppose the provision barring entry into force of the civil nuclear cooperation agreement. Senate Banking Committee Chair Christopher Dodd (D-CT) said he expects to mark up the bill in his committee next week.

By Senate practices, a bill is referred to multiple committees by Unanimous Consent. However, the Senate may use provisions of Senate Rule XIV or certain unanimous consent requests to completely or partially bypass potential consideration of a bill or joint resolution by a Senate committee. There is an effort underway to attach the “Iran Sanctions Act” to the Defense Authorization bill, but this, and bypassing the other committees claiming jurisdiction over the bill are not viewed favorably.

Letter from Condoleezza Rice Opposing Iran Sanctions Act of 2008

The Bush Administration expressed its opposition to the Iran Sanctions Act introduced by Senator Max Baucus on June 16. In letter to Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus on June 17, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice writes:

Dear Mr. Chairman:

I am writing you about S.970, the “Iran Sanctions Act of 2008,” which I understand will be marked up in the Senate Finance Committee tomorrow. As you know, the Administration has worked long and hard to gain multilateral support for sanctions against Iran. We have joined other nations in adopting three United Nations Security Council resolutions sanctions Iran. I understand fully the sentiment which motivates S.970.

However, as S.970 is currently drafted, two serious problems remain. First, the bill will serve to divide the multilateral coalition that has come together to oppose Iran’s nuclear program. The requirement to list and to impose extra-territorial sanctions on firms from other nations will be vigorously opposed by our strongest allies in the effort to isolate Iran. It will be seen as paving the way for more targeted sanctions against those allied-countries’ firms. This would be particularly ill-timed in light of the President’s successful discussions on Iran sanctions with European leaders this week. I urge you to drop these provisions.

Second, the current draft includes a provision barring entry into force of the civil nuclear cooperation agreement (123 agreement) which the United States and Russia recently signed, and which we have submitted to Congress. This provision is highly counter-productive and jeopardizes the progress which we have made with Russia on Iran nuclear issues. I urge that you strike this provision from the bill. I would be pleased to discuss this with you more fully. Meanwhile, I would note that the Chairman and ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee have serious concerns about this provision as well.

I look forward to working with you to craft legislation that will advance, and not set back, our shared goal of terminating Iran’s enrichment program.


/s Condoleezza Rice

Sanctions Resolution Raises Controversy

H.Con.Res. 362, new resolution introduced on May 22, 2008 by Representatives Gary Ackerman (D-NY) and Mike Pence (R-IN), is raising controversy in Washington and across the country. There is particular clause that some many fear is tantamount to declaring that the President should pursue a naval blockade against Iran, which would be an act of war. An office of one of the co-sponsors of the bill claims this is not the intention of the legislation and points to a “Whereas” clause in the bill that states “nothing in this resolution shall be construed as an authorization of the use of force against Iran” as evidence that the resolution does not call for a blockade. Here is the specific language under the “Resolved” section in the resolution that has many concerned:

(3) demands that the President initiate an international effort to immediately and dramatically increase the economic, political, and diplomatic pressure on Iran to verifiably suspend its nuclear enrichment activities by, inter alia, prohibiting the export to Iran of all refined petroleum products; imposing stringent inspection requirements on all persons, vehicles, ships, planes, trains, and cargo entering or departing Iran; and prohibiting the international movement of all Iranian officials not involved in negotiating the suspension of Iran's nuclear program;

The bill was introduced just prior to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee Annual Policy Meeting and urging co-sponsorship is one of AIPAC’s central legislative asks. They are currently circulating a letter in support of H.Con.Res. 362 and the Senate companion, S.Res. 580.

According to the House leadership, this resolution is going to “pass like a hot knife through butter” before the end of June on what is called suspension - meaning no amendments can be introduced during the 20-minute maximum debate. It also means it is assumed the bill will pass by a 2/3 majority and is noncontroversial. As of June 18, the bill already has 169 co-sponsors. If and when the bill is voted on suspension, there will be a roll call vote and AIPAC will use how member’s voted on the resolution in the lead up to the elections.

It is unclear if all of the bill’s co-sponsors really know what they’ve signed onto. Before the legislation is steamrolled to a vote, the language is controversial enough that it should certainly be closely examined, particularly given the heightened state of tensions between the U.S. and Iran.

The language has been circulated to several experts and lawyers and I will post any opinions received.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Israel is Nuts for Iran

Israel is nuts for pistachios from Iran, that is. (And, if you've ever had Iranian pistachios, you wouldn't blame them...they're absolutely the best in the world.) On June 5, 2008, U.Ss Ambassador to Israel Richard H. Jones wrote a severe letter to Finance Minister Ronnie Bar-On, with copies sent to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and two of his ministers accusing Israel of secretly trading with Iran and transferring foreign currency to the country, which is a direct violation of an Israeli law prohibiting trade with enemy states. In his letter, Jones accused Israel of buying Iranian pistachios under the guise of trade with Turkey, even though the U.S. has previously objected.

According to the letter: “Israel is the world’s largest per capita consumer of pistachio nuts and therefore an important market – estimated at $20 million – for pistachio producers. Of the two largest producers of pistachios – the Unites States and Iran – only the US has duty free access to the Israeli market under our Free Trade Agreement…while Iran’s product is banned by Israel’s Trading with the Enemy Act. Evidence strongly suggests that most, if not all, of the pistachios entering Israel are actually of Iranian origin.”

YNET news took the issue one step further arguing, “Every pistachio nut brings Iran another step closer to achieving nuclear capability, and though the US ambassador has placed responsibility for the fiasco primarily on the government’s shoulders, the pistachio crisis may require Israeli citizens to be more discerning in their eating habits.”

Iran Cited in House Resolution to Impeach George W. Bush

On June 10, 2008, Representative Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) introduced H. Res. 1258, “Impeaching George W. Bush, President of the United States, of high crimes and misdemeanors.” The resolution’s articles of impeachment include Article XXI, entitled “Misleading Congress and the American people about threats from Iran, and supporting terrorist organizations within Iran, with the goal of overthrowing the Iranian Government.” On June 11, 2008, the House of Representatives voted 251-166 to refer the measure to the Judiciary committee. The full text of Article XXI is below. Special thanks to Lara Friedman for sending Article XXI.

“In his conduct while President of the United States, George W. Bush, in violation of his constitutional oath to faithfully execute the office of President of the United States and, to the best of his ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States, and in violation of his constitutional duty to take care that the laws be faithfully executed, has both personally and acting through his agents and subordinates misled the Congress and the citizens of the United States about a threat of nuclear attack from the nation of Iran.

“The National Intelligence Estimate released to Congress and the public on December 4, 2007, which confirmed that the government of the nation of Iran had ceased any efforts to develop nuclear weapons, was completed in 2006. Yet, the president and his aides continued to suggest during 2007 that such a nuclear threat was developing and might already exist. National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley stated at the time the National Intelligence Estimate regarding Iran was released that the president had been briefed on its findings 'in the last few months.' Hadley's statement establishes a timeline that shows the president knowingly sought to deceive Congress and the American people about a nuclear threat that did not exist.

“Hadley has stated that the president 'was basically told: stand down' and, yet, the president and his aides continued to make false claims about the prospect that Iran was trying to 'build a nuclear weapon' that could lead to 'World War III.'

“This evidence establishes that the president actively engaged in and had full knowledge of a campaign by his administration to make a false 'case' for an attack on Iran, thus warping the national security debate at a critical juncture and creating the prospect of an illegal and unnecessary attack on a sovereign nation.

“Even after the National Intelligence Estimate was released to Congress and the American people, the president stated that he did not believe anything had changed and suggested that he and members of his administration would continue to argue that Iran should be seen as posing a threat to the United States. He did this despite the fact that United States intelligence agencies had clearly and officially stated that this was not the case.

“Evidence suggests that the Bush Administration's attempts to portray Iran as a threat are part of a broader U.S. policy toward Iran. On September 30, 2001, then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld established an official military objective of overturning the regime in Iran, as well as those in Iraq, Syria, and four other countries in the Middle East, according to a document quoted in then- Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Douglas Feith's book, 'War and Decision.'

“General Wesley Clark, reports in his book 'Winning Modern Wars' being told by a friend in the Pentagon in November 2001 that the list of governments that Rumsfeld and Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz planned to overthrow included Iraq, Iran, Syria, Libya, Sudan, and Somalia. Clark writes that the list also included Lebanon.

“Journalist Gareth Porter reported in May 2008 asking Feith at a public event which of the six regimes on the Clark list were included in the Rumsfeld paper, to which Feith replied 'All of them.'

Rumsfeld's aides also drafted a second version of the paper, as instructions to all military commanders in the development of 'campaign plans against terrorism'. The paper called for military commanders to assist other government agencies 'as directed' to 'encourage populations dominated by terrorist organizations or their supporters to overthrow that domination.'

“In January 2005, Seymour Hersh reported in the New Yorker Magazine that the Bush Administration had been conducting secret reconnaissance missions inside Iran at least since the summer of 2004.

“In June 2005 former United Nations weapons inspector Scott Ritter reported that United States security forces had been sending members of the Mujahedeen-e Khalq (MEK) into Iranian territory. The MEK has been designated a terrorist organization by the United States, the European Union, Canada, Iraq, and Iran. Ritter reported that the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) had used the MEK to carry out remote bombings in Iran.
“In April 2006, Hersh reported in the New Yorker Magazine that U.S. combat troops had entered and were operating in Iran, where they were working with minority groups including the Azeris, Baluchis, and Kurds.

“Also in April 2006, Larisa Alexandrovna reported on Raw Story that the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) was working with and training the MEK, or former members of the MEK, sending them to commit acts of violence in southern Iran in areas where recent attacks had left many dead. Raw Story reported that the Pentagon had adopted the policy of supporting MEK shortly after the 2003 invasion of Iraq, and in response to the influence of Vice President Richard B. Cheney's office. Raw Story subsequently reported that no Presidential finding, and no Congressional oversight, existed on MEK operations.

“In March 2007, Hersh reported in the New Yorker Magazine that the Bush administration was attempting to stem the growth of Shiite influence in the Middle East (specifically the Iranian government and Hezbollah in Lebanon) by funding violent Sunni organizations, without any Congressional authorization or oversight. Hersh said funds had been given to 'three Sunni jihadist groups ..... connected to al Qaeda' that 'want to take on Hezbollah.'

“In April 2008, the Los Angeles Times reported that conflicts with insurgent groups along Iran's borders were understood by the Iranian government as a proxy war with the United States and were leading Iran to support its allies against the United States' occupation force in Iraq. Among the groups the U.S. DOD is supporting, according to this report, is the Party for Free Life in Kurdistan, known by its Kurdish acronym, PEJAK. The United States has provided 'foodstuffs, economic assistance, medical supplies and Russian military equipment, some of it funneled through nonprofit groups.'

“In May 2008, Andrew Cockburn reported on Counter Punch that President Bush, six weeks earlier had signed a secret finding authorizing a covert offensive against the Iranian regime. President Bush's secret directive covers actions across an area stretching from Lebanon to Afghanistan, and purports to sanction actions up to and including the funding of organizations like the MEK and the assassination of public officials.

“All of these actions by the President and his agents and subordinates exhibit a disregard for the truth and a recklessness with regard to national security, nuclear proliferation and the global role of the United States military that is not merely unacceptable but dangerous in a commander-in- chief.

“In all of these actions and decisions, President George W. Bush has acted in a manner contrary to his trust as President and Commander in Chief, and subversive of constitutional government, to the prejudice of the cause of law and justice and to the manifest injury of the people of the United States. Wherefore, President George W. Bush, by such conduct, is guilty of an impeachable offense warranting removal from office.”

New Sanctions Bill to be Marked up in Finance Committee

On June 16, Senator Max Baucus (D-MT) introduced a new sanctions bill entitled the “Iran Sanctions Act of 2008” and it is scheduled to be marked up in the Senate Finance Committee on June 18, 2008. The bill is based on S.970, introduced by Senator Gordon Smith (R-OR). The bill is not yet accessible in Thomas, but a summary is posted on the Senate Finance Committee website.

As stated in a National Journal article, the new bill preserves the core of the measures in S.970, including a ban on “direct or indirect trade of most products between the United States and Iran;” prohibiting “the extension of trade preferences to Iran or that country's accession to the World Trade Organization;” freezing “assets of certain Iranian diplomats and representatives deemed to be involved in nuclear proliferation;” and subjecting “U.S. parent companies to sanctions if they knowingly participate in violations of sanctions law by a foreign subsidiary.”

The biggest difference between the new bill and S.970 is the inclusion of presidential waivers for nearly all of the provisions in the bill, “if the President determines that such a waiver is in the national interest of the United States.” The new bill does not appear to contain a requirement that the Director of National Intelligence submit to Congress an updated, comprehensive National Intelligence Estimate on Iran. It also does not contain the provision in Section 9 of S.970 that would have eliminated certain tax incentives for oil companies investing in Iran.

The new bill tightens an export ban “so that only agricultural commodities, medicine and medical devices, humanitarian assistance provided to relieve human suffering, and information materials are specifically excepted. The proposal defines agricultural commodities as any agricultural commodity, food, feed, fiber, or livestock.” According to the description of the bill, “The proposal also codifies the direct and indirect import ban on Iranian goods destined for the United States. The proposal does not provide any specific exceptions for the import ban. Under the proposal, the President may waive the export and import prohibitions if he determines that such a waiver is in the national interest of the United States.”

The bill removed a provision in S.970 that would have penalized trade preferences or World Trade Organization (WTO) accession for third countries determined to be aiding Iran's nuclear program. However, the bill still “prohibits the United States Trade Representative or any other Federal official from taking action that would extend trade preferences or lead to the WTO accession of Iran,” but “the President may waive this prohibition if he determines that such a waiver would be in the national interest of the United States.”

The bill would require the President to freeze the funds and assets under U.S. jurisdiction of Iranian diplomats and representatives of other government and military or quasi-governmental institutions of Iran if such persons are subject to sanctions under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, but “the President may waive this requirement if he determines that such a waiver would be in the national interest of the United States.”

The bill would subject U.S. parent companies to sanctions if the parent company knowingly participates in violations of U.S. sanctions laws by its foreign subsidiaries, but “the President may waive this requirement if he determines that such a waiver would be in the national interest of the United States.”

The bill would prohibit the U.S. from entering into a 123 Agreement with Russia and provides that the U.S. “may not issue licenses for the export of any nuclear material, facilities, components, or other goods, services, or technology that fall within the scope of the 123 Agreement.” It further states that the U.S. “may not approve the direct or indirect transfer or retransfer to Russia of any nuclear material, facilities, components, or other goods, services, or technology that fall within the scope of the 123 Agreement.” Under the bill, these prohibitions would remain in place “unless the President certifies to Congress that (1) Russia has suspended all nuclear assistance to Iran and all transfers of conventional weapons and missiles to Iran; or (2) Iran has completely, verifiably, and irreversibly dismantled all nuclear enrichment-related and reprocessing-related programs.” Given this impossible certification, it is likely that several key senators will become motivated to either remove the provision or oppose the bill.

The new bill also expresses the sense of Congress that the United States should support the creation of an international nuclear fuel bank by the International Atomic Energy Agency and “that the President should ensure that the fuel bank has multilateral support, is under IAEA control, and has necessary safeguards in place prior to making a contribution on behalf of the United States.”

The bill maintains the provision in S.970 that the United States must cut its contributions to the World Bank by an amount that is proportional to the total amount of loans the World Bank provided to Iran after 2008. Like S.970, it also authorizes the money made available as a result of the United States’ reduction in contributions to the World Bank to be appropriated to the U.S. Agency for International Development for its Child Survival and Health Programs.” However, this section also now includes a presidential waiver if determined to be in the national interest in the United States.

The section on “Exchange Programs with the People of Iran” has been changed from S.970. The new bill would authorize the President to carry out exchange programs with the people of Iran, with a focus on exchange programs with Iranian youth and it authorizes $15,000,000 to carry out these exchange programs for fiscal year 2009. S.970 would have authorized $10,000,000 for this program. Like S. 970, the new bill states that the Broadcasting Board of Governors should devote a greater proportion of Radio Farda’s programming to news and analysis.

The bill would increase the amount of money to be appropriated to the Department of Treasury’s Office of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence (TFI), of which the Office of Foreign Asset Controls is part, to $61,712,000 for Fiscal Year 2009. It would also increase the Department of Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Center (FinCEN) to $91,335,000 for Fiscal Year 2009.

The reporting requirements that were in S.970 have been changed and now include a requirement to report “to the Senate Finance, Banking, and Foreign Relations Committees and House Ways and Means, Financial Services, and Foreign Affairs Committees 180 days after enactment of this Act, and every 180 days thereafter, any foreign investments made in Iran’s energy sector since January 1, 2008 and the determination of the President on whether such investments qualify as sanctionable offenses under the” Iran Sanctions Act. This reporting requirement was added because the President has never imposed sanctions on foreign companies that have invested more than $20,000,000 a year in Iran’s petroleum and natural gas sectors.

The bill would require “Secretary of Treasury to report to the Senate Finance, Banking, and Foreign Relations Committees and House Ways and Means, Financial Services, and Foreign Affairs Committees not later than 90 days after the date of enactment of this Act, and every 90 days thereafter, on export credits issued by foreign banks to persons investing in Iran’s energy sector, and any fines, restrictions, or other actions taken by the President to discourage such export credit guarantees.” Currently there is no requirement for such a report.

The bill would require the President to provide Congress with a report not later than 180 days after enactment of the bill, and annually thereafter, on the names of persons that have or conduct business in the United States and also invest in Iran. The report will also be required to include the amount of each investment in Iran. Currently, there is no requirement for such a report.

Like S.970, the bill maintains a “Sense of Congress” that “the Executive Director of the Thrift Savings Board should report to the Senate Finance, Banking, and Foreign Relations Committees and House of Representatives Ways and Means, Financial Services, and Foreign Affairs Committees any investments from the Thrift Savings Plan that are in entities that invest in Iran.”

The bill adds a termination clause “if the President determines and certifies to the Senate Finance, Banking, and Foreign Relations Committees and House of Representatives Ways and Means, Financial Services, and Foreign Affairs Committees that Iran has completely, verifiably, and irreversibly dismantled all nuclear enrichment and reprocessing-related programs.” It also adds a sunset provision in that it will “cease to have force and effect five years after the date of enactment.”

It is unclear whether the new bill will be subject to the jurisdiction of other Senate committees, particularly the Banking and the Foreign Relations Committees.

House Resolution on Persecution of Bahai's

On February 28, 2008, Representatives Mark Kirk (R-IL), Rob Andrews (D-NJ), Joe Wilson (R-SC), Robert Wexler (D-FL), Frank Wolf (R-VA), Eric Cantor (R-VA), and Michael McNulty (D-NY) introduced H.Res. 1008, a resolution condemning the persecution of Bahai’s in Iran. The bill, which currently has 51 co-sponsors, was scheduled to be marked up in the House Foreign Affairs Committee on June 17, but has been postponed and will be rescheduled for a later date.

The resolution “condemns the Government of Iran for its state-sponsored persecution of Baha'is, calls on the Government of Iran to immediately cease activities aimed at the repression of the Iranian Baha'i community, and continues to hold the Government of Iran responsible for upholding all the rights of its nationals, including members of the Baha'i community.” It also “condemns the Government of Iran's continued imprisonment of individuals without due process and a fair trial” and “calls on the Government of Iran to immediately release 3 Baha'is: Ms. Raha Sabet, Mr. Sasan Taqva, and Ms. Haleh Roohi.” The resolution also calls on the “Government of Iran and the Iranian Parliament to reject a draft Islamic penal code, which violates Iran's commitments under the International Covenants on Human Rights.”

Monday, June 16, 2008

U.S. Conference of Mayors to Consider Iran Resolution

The U.S. Conference of Mayors is holding its annual meeting from June 20-24 in Miami, Florida. Mayor Bob Kiss of Burlington, Vermont submitted a timely resolution to the International Affairs Committee urging the Bush Administration to pursue diplomatic engagement with Iran on nuclear issues and ending the violence in Iraq; and urging Congress to prohibit the use of funds to carry out any military action against Iran without explicit Congressional authorization. The resolution currently has 20 co-sponsors: Dave Norris, Charlottesville, VA; R.T. Rybak, Minneapolis, MN; William D. Euille, Alexandria, VA; Joy Cooper, Hallandale Beach, FL; Marty Blum, Santa Barbara, CA; Dan Coody, Fayetteville, AK; Kevin Foy, Chapel Hill, NC; Gayle McLaughlin, Richmond, CA; Kitty Piercy, Eugene, OR; Elaine Walker, Bowling Green, KY; Jeff Prang, West Hollywood, CA; Rhine McLin, Dayton, OH; Jennifer Hosterman, Pleasanton, CA; Laurel Lunt Prussing, Urbana, IL; Anthony B Santos, San Leandro, CA; J. Christian Bollwage, Elizabeth, NJ; Scott J. Brook, Coral Springs, FL; and Bruce R. Williams, Takoma Park, MD. Below is a full text of the resolution.


1. WHEREAS, the President and members of his Administration have alleged that Iran poses an imminent threat to the United States, U.S. troops in the Middle East and U.S. allies; and

2. WHEREAS, these allegations are similar to the lead-up to the Iraq War and U.S. occupation, with the selective use of information and unsubstantiated accusations about Iran's nuclear program and its supply of weapons to Iraqi forces as centerpieces of a case to the American people for aggression against Iran; and

3. WHEREAS, Iran has not threatened to attack the United States, and no compelling evidence has been presented to document that Iran poses a real and imminent threat to the security and safety of the United States that would justify an unprovoked unilateral pre-emptive military attack; and

4. WHEREAS, we support the people of Iran who are struggling for freedom and democracy, and nothing herein should be misconstrued as support for the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran, but it should be understood that a unilateral, pre-emptive U.S. military attack on Iran could well prove counterproductive to the cause of promoting freedom and democracy there; and

5. WHEREAS, a 2007 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE), representing the consensus view all 16 U.S. intelligence agencies, concluded that Iran froze its nuclear weapons program in 2003, and an earlier NIE concluded that Iran’s involvement in Iraq “is not likely to be a major driver of violence” there; and

6. WHEREAS, an attack on Iran is likely to cause untold thousands of American and Iranian casualties, lead to major economic dislocations, and threaten even greater destabilization in the Middle East; and

7. WHEREAS, a pre-emptive U.S. military attack on Iran would violate international law and our commitments under the U.N. Charter and further isolate the U.S. from the rest of the world; and

8. WHEREAS, an attack on Iran is likely to inflame hatred for the U.S. in the Middle East and elsewhere, inspire terrorism, and lessen the security of Americans; and

9. WHEREAS, the Iraq war and occupation has already cost the lives of over 4,000 American soldiers, the maiming and wounding of over 38,000 American soldiers, the death and maiming of over one million Iraqi civilians; and

10. WHEREAS, the Iraq War and occupation has cost U.S. taxpayers more than $500 billion, depriving our cities of much-need funds for services and infrastructure; and

11. WHEREAS, except at our peril, we cannot ignore the history of U.S. government misinformation used to inspire U.S. aggression in Vietnam and again in Iraq, as embodied in the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution and more recently in the what we know now as false claims of weapons of mass destruction; and

12. WHEREAS, any conflict with Iran is likely to incur far greater costs and divert more precious national resources away from critical human needs,

13. NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the U.S. Conference of Mayors hereby urges the Bush Administration to pursue diplomatic engagement with Iran on nuclear issues and ending the violence in Iraq; and

14. BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the U.S. Conference of Mayors urges Congress to prohibit the use of funds to carry out any military action against Iran without explicit Congressional authorization; and

15. BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that suitable copies of the resolution be forwarded to President George W. Bush and all members of Congress.

Projected Cost: Unknown

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Real News Network Coverage of Time to Talk with Iran Event

Americans Talk Directly to Iranians

On Tuesday, June 10, 2008, the Campaign for a New American Policy on Iran (CNAPI) and the Enough Fear Campaign organized an innovative “Time to Talk with Iran” event and press conference on the Terrace of the West Side of the Cannon House Office Building. With the U.S. Capitol backdrop, Representatives Barbara Lee, Lynn Woolsey, former Congressman Bob Barr, Ron Paul, Marcy Kaptur and Sheila Jackson-Lee joined the campaign in a press conference and spoke in support of direct, bilateral and comprehensive talks without preconditions between the governments of the United States and Iran. The members of Congress were then invited to join Campaign members, foreign policy experts and American citizens in using a row of 60’s-era red “hotline” telephones to talk directly to ordinary Iranians, including a 60-year-old petroleum engineer, a software engineer, a French Literature professor and high school student. Click here to watch a video summary of the event by The Real News Network.

The “Time to Talk with Iran” event was an exercise in civilian diplomacy. It allowed Americans and Iranians to speak directly and get to know one another. There were more than 50 conversations between Americans and Iranians during the event. Most of the conversations focused on general personal questions and addressed how Iranians feel about Americans and how Americans feel about Iranians. The general sense was that despite the rhetoric between the governments of both countries, Americans and Iranians can and should be friends. Perhaps most significantly demonstrating this point, a number of people exchanged email addresses to continue the conversations. Politics mostly came up in the conversations between members of Congress and the Iranians. There was great emphasis on the need to get dialogue going and wanting better relations.

Campaign for a New American Policy on Iran organized the “Time to Talk with Iran” event because we believe that a military confrontation between the United States and Iran would have enormous human and financial costs. It would also plunge the Middle East, and global economy, into further violence and chaos. The Campaign advocates direct, sustained, and comprehensive talks without preconditions between the governments of the United States and Iran as a realistic way to resolving the long-standing conflicts between the two countries.

Concurrently on June 10, CNAPI organized a nationwide Call-in to Congress for Diplomacy with Iran for organizations with grassroots constituencies. Nearly 5,000 calls from across the country were made using the 1-800 number set up by the Campaign to Congressional representatives in the House and Senate urging direct diplomacy not war with Iran.

Click here for more information about the event.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Iran Responds to Mofaz's Threats

In response to Israel Deputy Prime Minister Shaul Mofaz’s comments last week regarding an imminent attack on Iran, Mohammad Khazaee, Iran’s Ambassador to the United Nations, delivered a letter on June 6 to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. Below is the full text of the letter. Meanwhile Mofaz has come under fire for his threats from other Israeli officials at home.

Permanent Mission of the Islamic Republic of Iran to the United Nations

In the name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful
No. 214/1

6 June 2008
H.E. Mr. Ban Ki-moon Secretary General United Nations, New York


Upon instruction from my Government and in pursuance of the previous letters of this Mission, including the letters circulated as documents A/61/571-S/2006/884, A/61/954- S/2007/354 and A/62/705-S/2008/117, regarding the blatant violation of the most basic principles of international law by the Israeli regime in making threats against the Islamic Republic of Iran, I wish to draw your attention to the following:

Emboldened by the absence of any action by the Security Council, and in full contempt for the most basic provisions of the Charter of the United Nations, particularly the provisions which call for refraining "from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations", the Israeli regime's officials, in continuation of their aggressive policies and unlawful practices, have relentlessly and in full impunity continued to make threats of resorting to force against the Islamic Republic of Iran under false pretexts.

This Mission has, through previous communications in particular the above mentioned letters, brought to the attention of the Secretary General and the Security Council's Presidents some of the instances that the Israeli regime has threatened to use force against my country. Once again, as reported by the media on 6 June 2008, the Israeli Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Transportation, Shaul Mofaz, has repeated the same insolent threat of use of force against the Islamic Republic of Iran in an interview with an Israeli newspaper by saying that Israel "will attack Iran... attacking Iran, in order to stop its nuclear plans, will be unavoidable". Such a dangerous threat against a sovereign State and a member of the United Nations constitutes a manifest violation of international law and contravenes the most fundamental principles of the Charter of the United Nations, and, thus, requires a resolute and clear response on the part of the United Nations, particularly the Security Council.

Threatening to resort to force by various officials of the Israeli regime against the Islamic Republic of Iran is indeed a manifestation of threat to international and regional peace and security by a regime whose policies and practices are based on aggression, state terrorism and defiance of all basic principles of international law.

Regrettably, the inaction of the Security Council in addressing such Israeli policies and the impunity with which the said regime has been allowed to insist on threatening other countries, has emboldened it to continue and even increase its unlawful behaviors and policies, to the extent that it engages as a matter of routine policy to openly threaten to use force against a member of the United Nations.

It is well known to the international community that the Israeli regime, which has never been a party to the international instruments on the prohibition of Weapons of Mass Destruction, has clandestinely developed nuclear weapons. Undoubtedly, nuclear weapons in the hands of an irresponsible regime with a long record of war crimes and crimes against humanity poses the most immediate and serious threat that the world and the region are facing.

Contrary to the baseless allegations fabricated by the Zionist regime, the Islamic Republic of Iran has unambiguously and vehemently rejected and opposed all kinds of weapons of mass destruction, including the nuclear weapons. As a State Party to Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) and the Treaty on the Non- Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons ( NPT), the Islamic Republic of Iran has on many occasions officially declared that weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons, as the most inhumane weapons, have no place in the defense doctrine of the country.

I wish to reiterate my Government's position that while the Islamic Republic of Iran has no intention to attack any other nations; nonetheless, in accordance with its inherent right under Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations, it would not hesitate to act in self- defense to respond to any attack against the Iranian nation and to take appropriate defensive measures to protect itself.

I am also sending an identical letter to the President of the Security Council. Please accept, Excellency, the assurances of my highest consideration.

Mohammad Khazaee
Permanent Representative

Sunday, June 08, 2008

A Good Reason Not to Attack Iran - This one hits close to home

On June 6, Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Shaul Mofaz was quoted by the Yediot Aharonot newspaper as saying:

"If Iran continues its nuclear weapons program, we will attack it," Mofaz told the daily, stressing that such an operation could only be conducted with US support.

"Other options are disappearing. The sanctions are not effective. There will be no alternative but to attack Iran in order to stop the Iranian nuclear program," Mofaz, who is also transportation minister, said.

According to analysts, his comments, compounded by the U.S. dollar squeeze, caused crude oil to leap over the past few days. Imagine what would happen if the threats of an attack became reality.

The photo is from a BP station in Georgia.

Wilkerson on War with Iran

On June 7, Col. Larry Wilkerson, Colin Powell's former Chief of Staff, gave an interview to the Real News Network in which he said war with Iran would reinforce U.S. strategic failure in the Persian Gulf. Click here to watch.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Congress must not be left asking “What Happened?” in Iran

Congress must not be left asking “What Happened?” in Iran.

The Bush Administration will do and say anything to justify an attack on Iran.

Not sure? Just ask former press secretary Scott McClellan.

Congress must act to ensure that the president does not take the U.S. into another catastrophic war.

On Tuesday, June 10th, members of Congress and others will get the chance to talk directly to Iranian citizens through hotlines set up on the West Side Terrace of the Cannon Building.

Stop by from 10am–1pm for the “Time to Talk with Iran” event and show Congress we can talk with Iran.

Sponsored by the Campaign for a New American Policy on Iran.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Am I missing something or have things gotten that stupid?

Someone just checked out the INW posting on H.R.6178 and noticed that on Thomas, the short title for the bill reads:

"H.R.6178 Title: To strengthen existing legislation sanctioning persons aiding and facilitating nonproliferation activities by the governments of Iran, North Korea, and Syria, and for other purposes."

Note that the short title says "persons aiding and facilitating nonproliferation activities." Why would we want to sanction those people? I think it should say "proliferation activities."

An INW readers writes: "Am I missing something or have things gotten that stupid?"

Obama, McCain, Americans and Diplomacy

On June 4, Barack Obama told the audience at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee Annual Policy Conference that as President of the United States, “We will also use all elements of American power to pressure Iran. I will do everything in my power to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. That starts with aggressive, principled diplomacy without self-defeating preconditions, but with a clear-eyed understanding of our interests.” He also said that he “will always keep the threat of military action on the table.”

John McCain told the audience at the AIPAC annual policy conference that diplomacy with Iran would only produce a “spectacle” and said, “Even so we hear talk of a meeting with the Iranian leadership offered up as if it were some sudden inspiration, a bold new idea that somehow nobody has ever thought of before. [Laughs].” Instead of pursuing diplomacy without preconditions, McCain called for tougher sanctions and divestment instead.

However, a new CNN/Gallup poll conducted May 19-21 and released on June 2 found that majority of Americans favor diplomacy.

According to the poll’s findings, “Large majorities of Democrats and independents, and even about half of Republicans, believe the president of the United States should meet with the leaders of countries that are considered enemies of the United States. Overall, 67% of Americans say this kind of diplomacy is a good idea. Although separate Gallup polling shows that few Americans view Iran favorably, and that Iran leads Americans' list of top U.S. enemies in the world, the new Gallup survey also finds high public support for presidential-level meetings between the United States and Iran, specifically. About 6 in 10 Americans (59%) think it would be a good idea for the president of the United States to meet with the president of Iran. This includes about half of Republicans, a majority of independents, and most Democrats.”

This Just in...

The Senate Finance Committee will mark up S. 970, the Iran Counterproliferation Act on June 18th.

New Sanctions Bill Introduced: Surprise, surprise, surprise!

On June 4, Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Eric Cantor (R-VA), Thadeus McCotter (R-MI) and Mike Pence (R-IN) introduced H.R. 6178, new legislation “to strengthen existing legislation sanctioning persons aiding and facilitating nonproliferation activities by the governments of Iran, North Korea, and Syria, and for other purposes.” It is also called the STOP Act of 2008. The bill has been referred to the House Committees on Foreign Affairs, Ways and Means, the Judiciary, Oversight and Government Reform, and Financial Services.

Title III, Section 202 of H.R. 6178 would amend Section 7 of the “Iran, North Korea, and Syria Nonproliferation Act” (Public Law 106-178; 50 U.S.C. 1701) to prohibit the U.S. to enter into any agreement for nuclear cooperation with “the government of any country that is assisting the nuclear program of Iran, North Korea, or Syria or transferring advanced conventional weapons or missiles to Iran, North Korea, or Syria may be submitted to the President or to Congress pursuant to section 123 of the Atomic Energy Act of 1954 (42 U.S.C. 2153).” It would also amend Section 8 of the “Iran, North Korea, and Syria Nonproliferation Act” to direct the Secretary of State to deny a visa to, and require the Secretary of Homeland Security to exclude from the United States any foreign person who has been determined to have aided proliferation in those countries, including any corporate officer, principal, or shareholder with a controlling interest in an entity, parent or subsidiary company of foreign persons determined to have aided proliferation.

Title III, Section 302 of the bill would amend the Iran Sanctions Act of 1996 (Public Law 104-172; 50 U.S.C. 1701 note) to deny taxpayers engaged in business activity with Iran tax benefits. “Notwithstanding any other provision of this part, in the case of a taxpayer which is a member of an expanded affiliated group any member of which, on any day during the taxable year, engaged in business activity with Iran which is prohibited by United States law, no credit shall be allowed under subsection (a) to the taxpayer for any income, war profits, or excess profits taxes paid or accrued (or deemed paid under section 902 or 960) to any country if such taxes are with respect to income attributable to a period any part of which occurs during such taxable year.”

Section 304 of the bill would also establish a “Compensation for Former United States Hostages in Iran Fund” to “to pay claims to the United States citizens held hostage in Iran, and to members of the families of such United States citizens, who are identified as plaintiffs or class members in Case Number 1:00CV03110 (EGS) or Case Number 1:00CV00716 (HHK) in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia.”

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

House Foreign Affairs Committee Hearing on the Russia 123 Agreement

On Thursday, June 12 at 9:30 am, the House Committee on Foreign Affairs will hold a hearing on “Russia, Iran, and Nuclear Weapons: Implications of the Proposed U.S.-Russia Agreement” in Rayburn 2172. Witnesses announced so far include Honorable John C. Rood, Acting Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security at the State Department; Robert J. Einhorn, Senior Adviser in the International Security Program at the Center for Strategic & International Studies; and Henry D. Sokolski, Executive Director, Nonproliferation Policy Education Center.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Senate Introduces New Campion Sanctions Resolution

On June 2, 2008, Senator Evan Bayh (D-IN) introduced S.Res.580 along with Sentors John Thune (R-SD), and Gordon Smith (R-OR). The bill text is not yet available on Thomas, but the resolution appears to be the Senate version of H.Con.Res. 362 introduced by Gary Ackerman and Mike Pence into the House of Representatives on May 22. The introduction of both bills calling for more U.S. unilateral sanctions not surprisingly comes as AIPAC is holding its annual policy conference in Washington, D.C.

S.Res.580 resolves that the Senate—

(1) declares that preventing the Government of Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapons capability, through all appropriate economic, political, and diplomatic means, is a matter of the highest importance to the national security of the United States and must be dealt with urgently;

(2) urges the President, in the strongest of terms, to immediately use the President's existing authority to impose sanctions on--

(A) the Central Bank of Iran and any other Iranian bank engaged in proliferation activities or support of terrorist groups;
(B) international banks that continue to conduct financial transactions with sanctioned Iranian banks;
(C) energy companies that have invested $20,000,000 or more in the petroleum or national gas sector of the economy of Iran in any given year since the date of the enactment of the Iran Sanctions Act of 1996 (Public Law 104-172; 50 U.S.C. 1701 note); and
(D) companies that continue to do business with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps of Iran;

(3) demands that the President lead an international effort to immediately and dramatically increase the pressure on the Government of Iran to verifiably suspend its nuclear enrichment activities by, among other measures, banning the importation of refined petroleum products to Iran; and

(4) asserts that nothing in this resolution shall be construed to authorize the use of force against Iran.

Christian Century Magazine on Diplomacy with Iran

The Christian Century has an editorial in the June 17 edition that calls for diplomacy with Iran. According to the editorial:

"A report emerged from President Bush's visit to Israel saying that Bush told Israeli leaders he intends to launch a military strike against Iran before he leaves office. The president is reported to have said that Hezbollah's recent show of military strength in Lebanon proves that Iran's influence in the Middle East is growing and that 'the disease must be treated—not the symptoms.' …

"Diplomacy offers no assured outcome. But one thing the U.S. should have learned from its misadventure in Iraq is that military interventions don't have assured outcomes either. Military efforts can exact an enormous price in human life and national treasure while unleashing new, uncontrollable forces of chaos. Now is the time to send a clear and unequivocal message to political leaders regarding an attack on Iran: Don't do it. Not in our name, not with our tax dollars, and not with the lives of our men and women. "