Thursday, November 13, 2014

Let's give diplomacy a chance and negotiate with Iran: the message of Quaker lobby day this year

Next week I am traveling to DC to take part in Quaker Lobby Day. Over 200 Quakers will descend on DC like a flock of doves and meet with as many elected officials as we can. So far, I am part of a delegation that will meet with Rep Judy Chu, and with aides at the office of Senators Feinstein and Boxer.

Our goal? To persuade our elected officials that we need to pursue robust negotiations with Iran. The hawks would like to see negotiations fail so the US will have to bully or bomb Iran into giving up its alleged nuclear aspirations. The more we bluster and bully, however, the less likely it is that Iran will let us have our way. A better way is to use diplomacy, as we did in Syria.

In order for there to be peace and stability in the Middle East, we need good relations with Iran, and vice versa. I am glad that FCNL has taken on this issue and provided talking points:

For Congress: Prevent a Nuclear-Armed Iran

For the first time in 30 years, the U.S. and Iran are engaged in robust, sustained, high-level diplomacy. U.S. diplomacy with Iran is advancing a multi-year agreement to guard against a nuclear-armed Iran and another war. Find out how Congress can support diplomacy.

Members of Congress Favor Iran Talks

The U.S.-Iran made history by taking the first concrete step to peacefully resolve the decade-long dispute over Iran's nuclear program. Congratulations to the many Members of Congress who have come out in support of this historic moment.

What Israeli, U.S. Experts Say on Iran Talks

Check out the military leaders and other U.S. and Israeli security experts from across the political spectrum who have come out in support of the historic first-step nuclear deal with Iran.

I also recommend the following articles to help clarify what is happening with Iran today.

"Iranian Attitudes on Nuclear Negotiations," Ebrahim Mohseni, Nancy Gallagher, and Clay Ramsay, University of Maryland, Center for International & Security Studies,delet September 2014; “Seven in ten (Iranians) say that the Iranian government’s purpose in expanding its nuclear capabilities is for peaceful nuclear energy, while one in five say it is also for developing nuclear weapons. … An overwhelming majority supports creating a Middle East nuclear free zone that includes Islamic countries and Israel, and three quarters support the goal of the NPT to eliminate all nuclear weapons. … Views of the United States, especially the U.S. government, continue to be quite negative. … President Rouhani receives very positive ratings. His foreign minister Zarif also gets positive ratings(.)”
Iran & the U.S. Are Allies Against ISIS but Aren’t Ready to Admit It Yet, J. Keating, 9/1614, 
Slate;   “Last week there were media reports that Ayatollah Ali Khamenei had approved cooperation with the United States in the name of fighting ISIS. … Iran (and to a less clear extent Syria) is already a de facto ally of the U.S. and Europe in this mission. The efforts of Iran and the U.S. have been complementary, even if they weren’t coordinated. … Washington and Tehran are on the same team in Iraq—things are a bit more complicated in Syria—but neither government seems ready to admit it yet. At a certain point, the military forces battling the same enemy in the field might start to wonder how long it will take the politicians giving them orders to get on the same page.” 
Iran's Rouhani, UK's Cameron have historic, 'constructive' meeting, Greg Botelho & Dana Ford, CNN, Sept. 25, 2014;   Iran President tweets on "1 hour of constructive & pragmatic dialogue" He criticizes U.S.-led strikes in Syria, yet opens door to "a new atmosphere" with U.S. Cameron: Despite "severe disagreements," Iranians could help defeat ISIS Prime Minister: If they can help, "we should welcome their engagement" 
President Rouhani’s speech to UN General Assembly, 25 Sept. 2014;          “I’m coming from a region of the world whose many parts are currently burning in fire of extremism and excess. … (The extremists) have a single goal: “the destruction of civilization, giving rise to Islamophobia and creating a fertile ground for further intervention of foreign forces in our region”. I deeply regret to say that terrorism has become globalized: “Today’s anti-Westernism is a reaction to yesterday’s racism. … To uproot extremism, we must spread justice and development and disallow the distortion of divine teachings to justify brutality and cruelty. ... I warn that if we do not muster all our strengths against extremism and violence today, and fail to entrust the job to the people in the region who can deliver, tomorrow the world will be safe for no one. … A final accord regarding Iran’s peaceful nuclear program can serve as the beginning of multilateral collaboration aimed at promoting security, peace and development in our region and beyond. … While some of the countries around Iran have fallen prey to war and turmoil, Iran remains secure, stable and calm.” 
Big powers aim to tackle any Iran bomb 'sneak-out' risk in nuclear talks, Fredrik Dahl, Reuters, Sept. 26, 2014; “Under a "sneak-out" scenario, Western officials and experts say, Iran could build a uranium enrichment plant in secret to make bomb material unbeknownst to the U.N. nuclear watchdog, now empowered to visit only Tehran's declared nuclear sites. To counter this risk, they say, any breakthrough diplomatic settlement with Iran must grant the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) broader surveillance powers in this vast country crisscrossed by remote, often inaccessible mountains and desert.”
Iran nuclear talks: why Tehran must be brought in from the cold A deal with Iran is vital for the stability of the wider Middle East. The opportunity must be grasped, Christopher de BellaigueThe Guardian, 2 October 2014;   “Iran could have a vital role in restoring stability throughout Mesopotamia and the Levant. … The new president has since scored notable successes – while keeping Khamenei on (the) side, despite the latter’s scepticism over nuclear talks. Rouhani has used the momentum generated by the interim deal – in addition to the modest sanctions relief that accompanied it – to cut inflation from 45% to 20% and stabilise the rial currency after it lost more than 80% of its value.   Human rights in Iran remain wretched(.) … A deal … would inaugurate a new relationship between the Islamic Republic and the west that could keep together a region that is, in every other particular, coming apart.” 
There’s Going To Be A Gold Rush If Sanctions On Iran Are Lifted, But America Could Miss Out, Ben, Oct. 2, 2014; “With US-Iranian nuclear negotiations reaching their deadline this November, businesses around the world are waiting in nervous anticipation to re-engage with one of the world’s largest economies. Even with heavy sanctions, Iran was the world's 21st largest economy two years ago. The country is rich in high-demand natural resources, has an educated workforce, and increasingly well-developed processing and manufacturing capabilities.”  
Explosion at Key Military Base in Iran Raises Questions About SabotageDAVID E. SANGER, New York Times, OCT. 9, 2014;   “A spectacular explosion on Sunday (Oct. 5) night outside Tehran took place deep inside the Parchin military base, where Iran produces crucial elements of its missiles and other munitions, raising new questions about whether the blast was an accident or sabotage. … Even if the blast was an accident, the Iranians will almost certainly suspect foul play. The history of sabotage of Iranian nuclear and missile facilities, and assassinations of its leading scientists, is a long one. The United States played a central role in shipping faulty parts into Iran’s nuclear centrifuge facilities, and together the United States and Israel carried out a highly classified program(.) 
Iran: nuclear talks might be extended if November deadline missed, by Paris Hafezi, Reuters, Oct. 10, 2014; “Talks over Iran's nuclear program might be extended if disagreement over remaining issues cannot be resolved by a November deadline, Iran's top negotiator was quoted as saying on Friday, in the first hint an extension was being contemplated. … Israel has repeatedly threatened to use military force against Iranian atomic sites if diplomacy fails to defuse the standoff.” 
In Vienna, U.S. and Iran Working to Beat the Clock, Reza Marashi, Huffington Post, Oct. 15, 2014, "[Russian foreign minister] Lavrov was telling the truth. The deal is 95 percent done, but the remaining 5 percent is the most difficult details(.) … As the negotiations reconvene, all eyes are on three unresolved issues. … The size and contours of Iran's enrichment program under a comprehensive deal remains the most challenging point of contention. … Centrifuge numbers are a dead end because they are largely arbitrary. …The U.S. and Iran also disagree over the duration of any comprehensive nuclear deal. …There are spoilers in the U.S. and Iran who will try to torpedo a deal, no matter the details.” 
The Last Step to an Iran Nuclear Deal, Greg Thielmann, Defense One, October 16, 2014, “As Iran and the “P5+1” countries resume talks in Vienna this week, the primary hurdle before their self-imposed Nov. 24 deadline for completing a final deal now is the wide gap between positions on the size and scope of Iran’s uranium enrichment capabilities. But the enrichment question should not detract from the importance of another important goal: verification in the comprehensive agreement." 
THERE'S ONLY ONE WAY TO BEAT ISIS: WORK WITH ASSAD AND IRAN, Leslie H. Gelb, Daily Beast, Oct. 18, 2014;   “** The Obama administration has pulled together a coalition as ineffectual as it is unwilling. It's time to join up with the forces, however unsavory, that can do the job. ** … In the short term the only way to check ISIS … is for the United States to work with Bashar Assad’s Syria, and with Iran. … Only Assad’s Syria and Iran can and would provide plausible ground forces (to fight ISIS) in short order. … Mr. Assad … hasn’t made the defeat of ISIS his top priority. … Russia, brimming with unhappy, armed Muslims, is even more threatened by the existence of ISIS than the United States.  Moscow could help facilitate cooperation between Syria, Iran and the U.S. … The Iranians have the military means and good reason to be effective partners(.)” 
Obama Sees an Iran Deal That Could Avoid Congress, David E. Sanger, New York Times, October 19, 2014; “If agreement is reached, President Obama will do everything in his power to avoid letting Congress vote on it. … Even while negotiators argue over the number of centrifuges Iran would be allowed to spin and where inspectors could roam(.) … (T)he Iranians have signaled that they would accept, at least temporarily, a “suspension” of the stringent sanctions that have drastically cut their oil revenues and terminated their banking relationships with the West, according to American and Iranian officials. The Treasury Department, in a detailed study it declined to make public, has concluded Mr. Obama has the authority to suspend the vast majority of those sanctions without seeking a vote by Congress, officials say.” 
Iran offers 'compromises' in nuclear talks, West unmoved, Parisa Hafezi & Louis Charbonneau, Reuters, Oct. 21, 2014; Iran is pushing what it portrays as a new compromise proposal in nuclear talks, but Western negotiators say it offers no viable concessions, underscoring how far apart the two sides are as they enter crunch time before a Nov. 24 deadline. In the negotiations with six major powers, the Iranians say they are no longer demanding a total end to economic sanctions in return for curbing their nuclear program and would accept initially lifting just the latest, most damaging, sanctions. Western officials dismiss the proposal as nothing new and say the Iranians have always known that the sanctions could only end gradually - with each measure being suspended and later terminated only after Iranian compliance had been proven.”


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