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      Sunday
      Mar112012

      Protest Awakens Against Iran War

      Our colleague, Tom Andrews, writes that he’s worried about the rising danger of war with Iran, especially after sounding out his old Democratic allies in the House. I, too, have the sense that President Obama can be pushed this year into a war he doesn’t want, according to a recent conversation with a House member.

      But that’s inside chatter. It’s time to make noise on the outside. And it’s beginning.

      Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) has introduced a substantive bill, HR 4173, which provides rational analysis and points the way to a diplomatic solution. It should be universally circulated far and wide. The legislation would end the current US policy of “no contact” with Iran, recently criticized as dangerous by Mike Mullen, past chairman of the Joint Chiefs.

      While endorsing targeted sanctions, the thrust of HR 4173 is to revive direct bilateral talks between the US and Iran, which have occurred only twice in the past thirty years. The bill’s findings recall the Nobel Prize speech given by President Obama in 2009, in which he asserted:

      “I know that engagement with repressive regimes lacks the satisfying purity of indignation. But I also know that sanctions without outreach--and condemnation without discussion--can carry forward a crippling status quo. No repressive regime can move down a new path unless it has the choice of an open door.”

      For more information on the Lee bill, please contact Barbara Lee’s office: Teddy_Miller@mail.house.gov

      In a second anti-war initiative last week, full-page ads opposing war with Iran appeared in the New York Times and other mainstream publications signed by top former US generals and intelligence officials. “We urge you to resist the pressure for a war of choice with Iran,” the message said. Signators included Gen. Paul Eaton (ret.), Lt. Gen. Robert Gard (ret.), Gen. Joseph Hoar (ret.), Major Gen. Rudolph Ostovich (ret), Brig.Gen. John Johns, (ret.), and two former national intelligence officers, Tom Fingar and Paul Pillar.

      Third, Tom Andrews’ organization, Win Without War, is calling for a national day of email messages to Congress on March 20, the anniversary of the launching of the Iraq War. For more, please contact Win Without War: stephen@winwithoutwar.org

      Fourth, Code Pink, UFPJ and their allies confronted the hawkish gathering of AIPAC in Washington last weekend, and the liberal J Street organization lobbied hard for a peaceful alternative. Tikkun raised funds and signatures for an ad campaign. The contacts are Gael Murphy ( gael@codepinkalert.org) and Rusti Eisenberg (hiscze@aol.com).

      Most importantly, the President used every public opportunity to amplify a warning of the dangers of the approaching war, while also pursuing global sanctions, ruling out containment, and promising hawks that no options, including military ones, are “off the table.” Obama drew clear differences with Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu over the immediacy and nature of the Iranian nuclear crisis. Administration officials warned that Iran, if attacked, would retaliate with missiles against Israel and US positions abroad. (New York Times, February 29, 2012) And there were new questions about the Israeli claim that nothing could be worse than a nuclear-armed Iran; after all, a far-worse scenario would be a nuclear-equipped Iran after an attack on its territory.

      Perhaps Obama’s most effective line of attack was his depiction of the Republican candidates as irresponsibly engaging in “loose talk” of war for their own political purposes. The Israelis, AIPAC and important elements of the American Jewish community worry that they will be accused of meddling in the political process to advance a war, which is not in the American national interest. As previously noted by the PJRC, Mitt Romney is a former partner with Netanyahu in Boston Consulting Inc., Newt Gingrich receives millions from a right-wing casino magnate close to Netanyahu, and Rick Santorum is a shrill crusader for the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and the emerging one with Iran. Further, the Congress appears spineless in the face of Jewish voters and campaign contributors, as evidenced in the 100-0 vote to ratchet up economic sanctions several weeks ago, over the “emotional” pleas of Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner. (Los Angeles Times, February 18, 2012)

      Progressive Democrats of America (PDA) is prioritizing Iran in their ongoing “brown bag” protests and discussions with Congressional representatives across the country, trying to revive progressive Congressional sentiment as a deterrent to the war. Will the Congressional Progressive Caucus join the fight?

      For more information from PDA, please write, virginia@phoenixpda.com, conor@pdamerica.org, cjmoos@crocker.com, pdatimcarpenter@gmail.com.

      The text of H.R. 4173 is below:

      H.R.4173

      Prevent Iran from Acquiring Nuclear Weapons and Stop War Through Diplomacy Act

      (Introduced in House - IH)

      HR 4173 IH

      112th CONGRESS
      2d Session
      H. R. 4173

      To direct the President of the United States to appoint a high-level United States representative or special envoy for Iran for the purpose of ensuring that the United States pursues all diplomatic avenues to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon, to avoid a war with Iran, and for other purposes.

      IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
      March 8, 2012

      Ms. LEE of California (for herself, Mr. JONES, Mr. CONYERS, Ms. WOOLSEY, Mr. KUCINICH, Ms. WATERS, Mr. STARK, Mr. ELLISON, Mr. FILNER, and Ms. JACKSON LEE of Texas) introduced the following bill; which was referred to the Committee on Foreign Affairs


      A BILL

      To direct the President of the United States to appoint a high-level United States representative or special envoy for Iran for the purpose of ensuring that the United States pursues all diplomatic avenues to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon, to avoid a war with Iran, and for other purposes.

      Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,

      SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.
      This Act may be cited as the `Prevent Iran from Acquiring Nuclear Weapons and Stop War Through Diplomacy Act'.

      SEC. 2. FINDINGS.
      Congress finds the following:

      (1) In his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech on December 10, 2009, President Obama said, `I know that engagement with repressive regimes lacks the satisfying purity of indignation. But I also know that sanctions without outreach--and condemnation without discussion--can carry forward a crippling status quo. No repressive regime can move down a new path unless it has the choice of an open door.'

      (2) In his address to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee on March 4, 2012, President Obama said, `I have said that when it comes to preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, I will take no options off the table, and I mean what I say. That includes all elements of American power. A political effort aimed at isolating Iran; a diplomatic effort to sustain our coalition and ensure that the Iranian program is monitored; an economic effort to impose crippling sanctions; and, yes, a military effort to be prepared for any contingency.'

      (3) While the Obama Administration has rejected failed policies of the past by engaging in negotiations with Iran without preconditions, only four of such meetings have occurred.

      (4) Official representatives of the United States and official representatives of Iran have held only two direct, bilateral meetings in over 30 years, both of which occurred in October 2009, one on the sidelines of the United Nations Security Council negotiations in Geneva, and one on the sidelines of negotiations brokered by the United Nations International Atomic Energy Agency (referred to in this Act as the `IAEA') in Vienna.

      (5) All of the outstanding issues between the United States and Iran cannot be resolved instantaneously. Resolving such issues will require a robust, sustained effort.

      (6) Under the Department of State's current `no contact' policy, officers and employees of the Department of State are not permitted to make any direct contact with official representatives of the Government of Iran without express prior authorization from the Secretary of State.

      (7) On September 20, 2011, then-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen, called for establishing direct communications with Iran, stating, `I'm talking about any channel that's open. We've not had a direct link of communication with Iran since 1979. And I think that has planted many seeds for miscalculation. When you miscalculate, you can escalate and misunderstand.'

      (8) On November 8, 2011, the IAEA issued a report about Iran's nuclear program and expressed concerns about Iran's past and ongoing nuclear activities.

      (9) On December 2, 2011, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta warned that an attack on Iran would result in `an escalation that would take place that would not only involve many lives, but I think it could consume the Middle East in a confrontation and a conflict that we would regret.'

      SEC. 3. STATEMENT OF POLICY.
      It should be the policy of the United States--

      (1) to prevent Iran from pursuing or acquiring a nuclear weapon and to resolve the concerns of the United States and of the international community about Iran's nuclear program and Iran's human rights obligations under international and Iranian law;

      (2) to ensure inspection of cargo to or from Iran, as well as the seizure and disposal of prohibited items, as authorized by United Nations Security Council Resolution 1929 (June 9, 2010);

      (3) to pursue sustained, direct, bilateral negotiations with the Government of Iran without preconditions in order to reduce tensions, prevent war, prevent nuclear proliferation, support human rights, and seek resolutions to issues that concern the United States and the international community;

      (4) to utilize all diplomatic tools, including direct talks, targeted sanctions, Track II diplomacy, creating a special envoy described in section 4, and enlisting the support of all interested parties, for the purpose of establishing an agreement with Iran to put in place a program that includes international safeguards, guarantees, and robust transparency measures that provide for full IAEA oversight of Iran's nuclear program, including rigorous, ongoing inspections, in order to verify that Iran's nuclear program is exclusively for peaceful purposes and that Iran is not engaged in nuclear weapons work;

      (5) to pursue opportunities to build mutual trust and to foster sustained negotiations in good faith with Iran, including pursuing a fuel swap deal to remove quantities of low enriched uranium from Iran and to refuel the Tehran Research Reactor, similar to the structure of the deal that the IAEA, the United States, China, Russia, France, the United Kingdom, and Germany first proposed in October 2009;

      (6) to explore areas of mutual benefit to both Iran and the United States, such as regional security, the long-term stabilization of Iraq and Afghanistan, the establishment of a framework for peaceful nuclear energy production, other peaceful energy modernization programs, and counter-narcotics efforts; and

      (7) that no funds appropriated or otherwise made available to any executive agency of the Government of the United States may be used to carry out any military operation or activity against Iran unless the President determines that a military operation or activity is warranted and seeks express prior authorization by Congress, as required under article I, section 8, clause 2 of the United States Constitution, which grants Congress the sole authority to declare war, except that this requirement shall not apply to a military operation or activity--

      (A) to directly repel an offensive military action launched from within the territory of Iran against the United States or any ally with whom the United States has a mutual defense assistance agreement;

      (B) in hot pursuit of forces that engage in an offensive military action outside the territory of Iran against United States forces or an ally with whom the United States has a mutual defense assistance agreement and then enter into the territory of Iran; or

      (C) to directly thwart an imminent offensive military action to be launched from within the territory of Iran against United States forces or an ally with whom the United States has a mutual defense assistance agreement.

      SEC. 4. APPOINTMENT OF HIGH-LEVEL U.S. REPRESENTATIVE OR SPECIAL ENVOY.

      (a) Appointment- At the earliest possible date, the President, in consultation with the Secretary of State, shall appoint a high-level United States representative or special envoy for Iran.

      (b) Criteria for Appointment- The President shall appoint an individual under subsection (a) on the basis of the individual's knowledge and understanding of the issues regarding Iran's nuclear program, experience in conducting international negotiations, and ability to conduct negotiations under subsection (c) with the respect and trust of the parties involved in the negotiations.

      (c) Duties- The high-level United States representative or special envoy for Iran shall--

      (1) seek to facilitate direct, unconditional, bilateral negotiations with Iran for the purpose of easing tensions and normalizing relations between the United States and Iran;

      (2) lead the diplomatic efforts of the Government of the United States with regard to Iran;

      (3) consult with other countries and international organizations, including countries in the region, where appropriate and when necessary to achieve the purpose set forth in paragraph (1);

      (4) act as liaison with United States and international intelligence agencies where appropriate and when necessary to achieve the purpose set for in paragraph (1); and

      (5) ensure that the bilateral negotiations under paragraph (1) complement the ongoing international negotiations with Iran.

      SEC. 5. DUTIES OF THE SECRETARY OF STATE.

      (a) Elimination of `No Contact' Policy- Not later than 30 days after the date of enactment of this Act, the Secretary of State shall rescind the `no contact' policy that prevents officers and employees of the Department of State from making any direct contact with official representatives of the Government of Iran without express prior authorization from the Secretary of State.

      (b) Office of High-Level U.S. Representative or Special Envoy- Not later than 30 days after the appointment of a high-level United States representative or special envoy under section 4(a), the Secretary of State shall establish an office in the Department of State for the purpose of supporting the work of the representative or special envoy.

      SEC. 6. REPORTING TO CONGRESS.

      (a) Reports- Not later than 60 days after the high-level United States representative or special envoy for Iran is appointed under section 4, and every 180 days thereafter, the United States representative or special envoy shall report to the committees set forth in subsection (b) on the steps that have been taken to facilitate direct, bilateral diplomacy with the government of Iran under section 4(c). Each such report may, when necessary or appropriate, be submitted in classified and unclassified form.

      (b) Committees- The committees referred to in subsection (a) are--

      (1) the Committee on Appropriations, the Committee on Foreign Affairs, the Committee on Armed Services, and the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence of the House of Representatives; and

      (2) the Committee on Appropriations, the Committee on Foreign Relations, the Committee on Armed Services, and the Select Committee on Intelligence of the Senate.

      SEC. 7. AUTHORIZATION OF APPROPRIATIONS.

      There are authorized to be appropriated to carry out this Act such sums as may be necessary for each of fiscal years 2012 and 2013.

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