Many Americans are concerned about hostilities between the United States and Iran and between Israel and Iran because military confrontation could have dire consequences for the entire world. Unfortunately, that voice is hardly articulated, nor is it heard by members of Congress and other policymakers.
Right here in central Pennsylvania, members of the Lancaster Interchurch Peace Witness, especially those in the Middle East Interest Group, have years of experience in the Middle East in humanitarian work through nongovernmental organizations scattered from Egypt to Iran.
Based on our understanding of cultures and resources of the region, we are concerned that diplomatic possibilities are not being pursued vigorously enough. LIPW is a grassroots network of about 1,000 Lancaster County Christian laity and clergy in pursuit of a secure, sustainable and just world. LIPW took shape out of concern that the Iraq war was misguided and would be disastrous for the U.S. and the people of Iraq. And so it was.
We are concerned that the U.S., along with Israel and other supporting countries, is on a similarly misguided path in Iran. We are urging U.S. leaders to reject calls for military action and indiscriminate sanctions and to establish a channel for communications with Iran to prevent the risks of war.
We urge U.S. leaders to work with other responsible nations to press for sustained, direct and comprehensive negotiations with Iran to end hostilities and build a viable peace in the region, concerned for the security of all.
We urge lasting solutions to regional conflict and the standoff over Iran’s nuclear program. The present course of U.S. action policy, which is beholden to Israel’s leadership and the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee, is not in the best interest of the United States, Israel nor the wider Middle East. A diplomatic approach does not diminish the special bond between Israel and the U.S. The entire world, including Israel, will suffer from an all-out military confrontation with Iran.
The persistent efforts by members of Congress to prevent any kind of diplomatic contact with Iran are counterproductive. Interests of the U.S. and the international community and the well-being of all countries in the region should not be sacrificed to hostile Iranian, Israeli or American rhetoric over Iran’s nuclear capability.
There is not a monolithic viewpoint in Israel, nor in the American Jewish community, on the approach to Iran. The English language paper. Haaretz, reporting on a Haaretz-Dialog poll in November found that Israelis are almost evenly split on whether Israel should attack Iran’s nuclear facilities, with 41 percent supporting such a strike and 39 percent opposed. The remaining 20 percent said they were undecided.
On Sept. 20, outgoing Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen called for establishing a channel for U.S.-Iranian communication. He warned that without communications channels, there will be “extremely dangerous” outcomes: “We haven’t had a connection with Iran since 1979. Even in the darkest days of the Cold War we had links to the Soviet Union. We are not talking to Iran so we don’t understand each other. If something happens, it’s virtually assured that we won’t get it right, that there will be miscalculations which would be extremely dangerous in that part of the world,” he said.
Business leaders, scholars, former secretaries of state and foreign policy experts such as Ambassador Thomas Pickering, with his team of experts, are calling on U.S. policymakers to keep Iran within the international community and use available lines of diplomatic communication.
The legacy of goodwill between Iran and the U.S. can form the basis of a renewed effort to resolve our differences peacefully in an atmosphere of mutual respect. Dr. Trita Parsi, in his new book, “A Single Roll of the Dice: Obama’s Diplomacy With Iran,” argues that diplomatic options have never been fully pursued to improve relations with Iran. At the start of his administration, Obama’s intention was genuine, but Congress, Israel, France and Saudi Arabia opposed his vision for diplomacy. So diplomatic options went nowhere.
It’s time the world learned from its mistakes in Iraq and in other failed military interventions and not take this path with Iran. It’s time the United States exerted wise leadership and worked for the common good of all nations in the region, including Iran and Turkey as well as Israel and Saudi Arabia and Iraq.
The current policy to isolate and threaten Iran only increases its hostile stance and makes the world a far more dangerous place for us all.
Urbane Peachey is president of the board of directors of the Lancaster Interchurch Peace Witness.