TomHaydenIt is imperative in this current crisis for PDA to issue a statement on U.S. policy toward Iran. We welcome your comments on the statement. We need to close the comment period by Monday, February, 20. You may make your comments through the Forum or at the end of this article. Tom Hayden will lead a discussion on Iran this Tuesday evening, February 14 on our monthly End Wars and Occupations conference call. Register for End Wars and Occupations call.

I. Current backdrop and opportunities
II. Proposed PDA Talking Points
III. PDA Position: Diplomacy, not War

PDA position paper on IRAN -- Summary
PDA wishes to point out the grave consequences of war with Iran. We call on our government to approach this crisis with all the seriousness that this situation merits. PDA calls upon Congress to take its rightful foreign policy role here, Belligerent talk – especially in an election year – is cheap and dangerous.

PDA calls upon the American people to look into this dangerous situation. We do not need another war with all its unknown costs and consequences.

PDA believes that our government has not given diplomacy a chance. The U.S. needs to take leadership by stepping back and taking diplomacy seriously. There is no military solution, but much economic catastrophe can ensue, even leading to a world economic collapse.

The Administration needs to recognize how jittery Iran’s leaders must be about the USA, based on our past interference with Iran’s governance, as far back as 1953. The U.S. will need to send assurances and signals of a change in American posture.

 PDA Israel/Palestine Statement
"PDA supports a two-state solution to the Middle East crisis: Israel and Palestine living side-by-side as free, sovereign, and independent states, fully recognized by each other and the world. Until this is achieved, Israelis and Palestinians, like all people everywhere, are equally entitled to the full protection of international human rights law, and this should guide U.S. policy and U.S. responses to actions by either side.

PDA stands tall with the majority of Americans who want our government to take a more even-handed approach to the Israeli-Palestinian crisis. We believe that this will ultimately be in the best interests of Palestinians, Israelis and Americans alike."


PDA points out that further threats to Iran, encircled as she is by western bases, can lead to her withdrawing cooperation with the IAEA inspections program. Our government needs to reach out to Russia and China to help achieve a non-military solution with Iran. Sanctions on Iran could be reduced as cooperation begins to take hold.

There is so much to be gained by proper diplomacy. The USA wants to keep the flow of oil from the Persian Gulf. And Iran could play a key role in reducing the influence of the Taliban and al-Qaeda in Afghanistan.

In our accompanying position paper, we analyze the nature of the threat of war with Iran and we suggest a number of diplomatic possibilities.

I. Current backdrop and opportunities
In the face of rapidly escalating threats against Iran by the Administration, Republican presidential hopefuls, and neo- conservative think tanks, some of the liberal ‘hawks’ who supported the Iraq war are expressing serious reservations about the sharp rise in tensions between Iran and both the U.S. and Israel, and the misinformation being circulated by U.S. officials to justify military action. An article in the Jan-Feb issue of Foreign Affairs is emblematic of the rush to war and the misinformation and has galvanized opposition to current U.S. foreign policy from unlikely sources.

The article, "Time to Attack Iran: Why a Strike is the Least Bad Option'', written Matthew Kroenig, an academic who just completed a one-year stint as a strategic analyst in the office of the Secretary of Defense advocates a “limited and carefully calibrated” U.S. aerial attack on Iran's air defenses and nuclear sites. Koenig’s total disregard for the economic and humanitarian consequences is a chilling reminder of what we are up against as advocates for peace. [1]

PDA can exploit responses by those who supported the Iraqi wars to argue that U.S. policy can still be reversed.

  • Leslie Gelb, the president emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations a repentant Iraq-war hawk warned, “We're letting a bunch of ignorant, sloppy-thinking politicians and politicized foreign-policy experts draw 'red line' ultimatums. As before, we're letting them quick-march us off to war." [2].
  • Kenneth Pollack, a former top CIA analyst at the Brookings Institution whose 2002 book, "The Threatening Storm: The Case for Invading Iraq", was cited frequently in support of U.S. military action, argued not only against any further escalation, but also suggested that the sanctions on which the Obama administration has increasingly relied will lead to a humanitarian catastrophe and is potentially damaging to the struggling U.S. economy.[3]
  • Anne- Marie Slaughter, former director of the State Department’s policy planning office under Hillary Clinton argued that the West and Iran were playing a "dangerous game" of "chicken," and the more the West threatens Iran, the more easily Iranian leaders can portray America as the Great Satan to parts of the Iranian population that have recently been inclined to see the U.S. as their friend."[4]
  • New York Times columnist Bill Keller assured his readers that Kroenig's former colleagues at the Pentagon "were pretty appalled by his article, which combines the alarmist worst case of the Iranian nuclear threat with the rosiest best case of America's ability to make things better."[5]
  • Colin Kahl, who left the Pentagon in 2011 after two years as the head of Middle East policy, argued that Kroenig's "picture of a clean, calibrated conflict is a mirage. Any war with Iran would be a messy and extraordinarily violent affair, with significant casualties and consequences" and could transform "the Arab Spring's populist anti-regime narrative into a decidedly anti-American one."[6]

II. Proposed PDA Talking Points

1) Much of the fear and panic over Iran is the result of a widely-repeated mistranslation of a statement by President Ahmadinajad in a speech in 2005. Reputable scholars, including Juan Cole at the University of Michigan, translate his statement as, "the regime occupying Jerusalem will vanish from the pages of time." A mistranslation that "Israel must be wiped off the map" has been widely broadcast and repeated to mistakenly imply that Iran is threatening a nuclear attack on Israel.

2) The UN Charter prohibits any country from attacking another. The only internationally accepted legal justifications for the use of military force are: a) self-defense; and b) collective security action ordered by the Security Council. Surely the disastrous results of the illegal US invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq have demonstrated the wisdom of treating these rules of international law with the respect they deserve.

3) The US government claims it would prefer to settle its differences with Iran through diplomacy. And yet, the Obama administration did not give diplomacy with Iran a fair chance. [7] Instead, it reverted quickly to brinksmanship and threats. There are good reasons for Iran to mistrust the US, which overthrew its elected government in 1953, supported the brutal Shah and has pursued a regime change policy against it ever since Iran’s popular revolution in 1979. The indispensable first goal of diplomacy is to establish trust. Given the history between the two countries, making demands and threats is counter-productive. We need real diplomacy now!

4) There is no military solution to this crisis. Military strikes could only destroy parts of Iran's nuclear program, and could very well persuade it to end IAEA inspections and revive its nuclear weapons program. They would also strengthen the power of the military and the Revolutionary Guards, on whom the country would be dependent for its defense. The massive air strikes that would be required to have any impact on Iran would cause great loss of life, injury and devastation, and destroy any hope of reconciliation between Iran and the US for many years to come. Following an Israeli attack (which would be unlikely to occur without U.S. support), Iran would most likely retaliate against Israel with long-range missiles. The attack would ignite uproar of nationalism in Islamic countries and severely damage regional economies and political stability.

5) A war with Iran would be an economic catastrophe for the U.S. and could ignite (another) world wide economic collapse. Oil prices would spike—perhaps even double — not only because as Iran would cut off supplies to Europe (or even worldwide), but because allies and proxies of Iran might disrupt oil production in other countries This type of action would have sweeping consequences not only for the U.S., but for China, India, Russia, Japan, the E.U. and other industrial nations. Just as it did in 2008, a global recession would eventually cause oil prices to collapse and no national economy would be safe from its effects. And the U.S. military budget would climb yet again. Over 6,300 Americans have died in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan during the last 10 years, and over 45,000 have been wounded in action. The United States has spent over $1.3 trillion dollars funding these wars. We do not need another war with unknown costs and consequences.

6) As long as IAEA inspections continue, there is no way that Iran could divert any of its uranium to a secret program that could enrich it to weapons grade.

III. PDA Position: Diplomacy, not War
There is no guarantee that diplomacy will succeed, but war surely will fail.

A diplomatic strategy must begin with the United States deciding what it can put on the table to assure that both sides can reach a durable deal. We have done this with a reasonable degree of success in the past, with the U.S.S.R. in the 1930s and again in the 1970s and 1980s, and with the Chinese government in the 1970s. Both have nuclear stockpiles. Neither has ever felt compelled to use them.

In developing a diplomatic strategy toward Iran, President Obama might respond to the three questions Nixon asked his advisors when it came to diplomacy with China: What do they want, what do we want, and what do we both want?

Iran wants recognition of its revolution; an accepted role in its region; a nuclear program; the departure of the United States from the Middle East; and the lifting of sanctions. The United States wants Iran not to have nuclear weapons; security for Israel; a democratic evolution of Arab countries; the end of terrorism; and world access to the region’s oil and gas. Both Iran and the United States want stability in the region — particularly in Iraq and Afghanistan; the end of terrorism from Al Qaeda and the Taliban; the reincorporation of Iran into the international community; and no war.

If we were to accept these assumptions, the U.S. would agree to full recognition and respect for the Islamic Republic, and Iran would agree to regional cooperation with the United States in Afghanistan and Iraq. Both sides would agree to address the full range of bilateral disputes. The IAEA and the United Nations Security Council could accept an Iranian civil nuclear program in return for Iran’s continued agreement to grant inspectors full access to that program to assure that Iran did not build a nuclear weapon. As international agencies had full access to Iran’s nuclear program, there could be a progressive reduction of the Security Council’s sanctions that are now in effect. Iran and the United States could agree to support efforts toward achieving a nuclear-free zone in the Middle East.

Both sides would agree to cooperate in reducing the influence of the Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan; in combating drug trafficking; and in keeping open the routes through which energy flows to the world from the Persian Gulf. Both sides would agree that while wide differences between the two nations remained, those differences must be resolved peacefully.

In addition, American policy-makers should reinvigorate their support for multilateral institutions such as the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). When given the opportunity to fulfill its mandate, it has been effective. However, nonproliferation experts have noted international funding commitments have not kept pace with the new inspections demands placed upon the agency. This option, if seriously pursued by the United States, would require greater political and financial engagement with multilateral institutions, including the IAEA.

The U.S. should increase its engagement with other pivotal nations such as Russia and China. Both nations have significant economic and political influence that can be brought to bear in seeking a nonmilitary solution with Iran. Moscow and Beijing’s behaviors and statements have demonstrated that they are willing to consider and agree to U.S.-led positions when American policymakers persistently engage in diplomacy with them.

Should Iran obtain nuclear weapons, the U.S. should employ a strategy of deterrence, containment and engagement – similar to how the U.S. dealt with the Soviet Union and China during the Cold War. Even prominent Israeli security experts – the current and former heads of Israel’s foreign intelligence service and a former military chief of staff – have stated that a nuclear Iran is not an existential threat to Israel. Before these scenarios could become a real possibility, the U.S. would have to provide unmistakable evidence to Iran’s government that it is no longer bent on overthrowing its rulers . The U.S. needs to come up with a way to undo the legacy of the U.S. overthrow of Mossadegh in 1953, and its support of both the Shah, and Saddam Hussein’s war against Iran in the 1980s.

Simply “keeping the door open to diplomacy” will not be sufficient. So Iranian leaders must be approached directly, but discreetly, by someone they trusts who will convey assurances from President Obama that covert operations and public pressure have been demonstrably reduced. That person could be a leader from a country in the region. Khamenei will have to be convinced by actions, not just messages. Just as Nixon halted covert action in Tibet before approaching China, a similar signal will be needed with Iran.

Written by The End War and Occupation Steering Committee of Progressive Democrats of America: Sandy Davies, Marc Levin, Virginia Hauflaire, Sally Weiss Feb. 7, 2012

[1] Kroenig, Matthew. Time to Attack Iran: Why a Strike is the Least Bad Option. Foreign Affairs. Jan-Feb. 2012, p76-86.






[7] Trita Parsi. A Role of the Dice: Obama’s Roll of the Dice. Yale University Press,. 2012.

End Wars and Occupations - EWO Articles