The highlight of the Occupy AIPAC conference was a Saturday morning panel on war with Iran, with four experts explaining to 300 people why it is such a tragically wrong idea.
A couple of panelists described an attack on Iran as possibly leading to world war--and so it is a terrible shame that CSPAN did not see fit to air these experts' analysis to the nation. Our job!
The key points in this panel are: Sanam Anderlini and Kate Gould describing an attack as leading the way to a possible world war and how Obama has failed to engage Iran as he promised; Jamal Abdi saying that AIPAC and Israel have been playing a shell game with the U.S. "red lines," lying about Obama's red line; Gould with the incisive analysis that Congress is driving foreign policy, not Obama; Anderlini describing the removal of Persian culture from American schools; Abdi saying that J Street, the liberal Zionist group, performed essential service on a Congressional letter calling for diplomacy now signed by 37 Congresspeople; and finally Abdi on how Israel and AIPAC's greatest fear is diplomacy.
Here are some excerpts. (Statements not in quotations are paraphrased.)
Sanam Anderlini, an Iranian-American leader, of the International Civil Society Action Network:
"They say we’ve tried diplomacy. In three years there has been less than 24 hours of diplomacy. Evern a friendly divorce would require more conversation than we've had."
And what are we talking about? "Something akin to a modern World War 3. Can we not talk to each other? What would happen if we spend six months of talks, 24 hours a day."
Jamal Abdi, of the National Iranian American Council, formerly an aide to former Rep. Brian Baird:
"It’s so amazing to see you here. And your courage to do what so few people in this town are willing to do—stare down the AIPAC machine....
"Lies and saber rattling were the self fulfilling prophecies of the Iraq war. The same movie is playing now. How do we prevent the Iraq sequel.
"President Obama said I’m going to break with the Bush Administration policies, I’m going to engage them. I think his vision was good. I trust that Obama actually had a vision to end the 30 years of [non engagement] and talk to Iran.
Of the Keith Ellison-Walter Jones congressional letter, urging diplomacy:
"37 members of Congress signed this letter, we need to engage Iran. Thank them. And reprimand the other 400 members...
"There’s no military solution to this. You can’t bomb knowledge." The thinking is that if you bomb, you get two years. "Then you have to bomb again. Ultimately that ends in occupation."
On the two different red lines. Obama has said his red line is, if Iran moves to build a bomb. "And the Iranians have not made a decision to build a weapon. That is a fact." OK, fine, AIPAC and Netanyahu have responded: "'We’re going to say our red line is Iran having a capability to build a weapon.' They’re moving the goal posts."
"They say, 'This isn’t a war resolution. This is endorsing what the President has said.' That is a lie. You don’t say lie very often in Washington. This is a lie."
Kate Gould of the Friends Committee on National Legislation:
"We’re talking about preventing World War 3."
Gould's sister was in Iran in December and January. The shops in the heart of Tehran have empty shelves. "Completely bare." Even rice and beans. "Because people are stockpiling to prepare for war with Israel and the United States." How can we lobby our way out of a US war with Iran?
Isn’t it the president who actually runs US policy toward Iran?
"Actually Iranians and other foreigners have a better sense than we do of how Congress is running the show." The "economic warfare" of sanctions that prevent business with anyone who is doing business with Iran was led by Congress.
"Increasingly Congress is running the show and until Congress releases its stranglehold on the possibility of diplomacy with Iran...."
We've been effective in the past. In summer 2008 we stopped the blockade bill against Iran that was correctly characterized as an act of war, with phone calls, emails, lobby visits. Five members withdrew their co-sponsorship of the bill. "The defectors caused such a stir, the bill came off the House floor." That shift was the top story in Iran, where the media had portrayed the legislation as a declaration of war against the country.
"Now we need to build political cover for the idea of talking to Iran."
Support the Ellison Jones letter by calling your congressperson: 855 686 6927.
Anderlini on the Are they rational? question:
Iran is one of the most rational strategic entities out there. Its leaders are driven by survival. "When they say they don’t want a nuclear weapon, I believe them. Strategically it doesn’t make sense for them."
Gould on the same question:
People argue that if Iran were bombed it wouldn’t do anything in response because that would call down much worse destruction. Well, that is strategic thinking. So why wouldn’t they also be strategic if they actually had a bomb-- and never use it, because that would be suicide.
"The history of the Persian empires has been taken out of your children’s social studies books over the last twenty to thirty years. Systematically. I have a cousin who teaches social studies. And it's gone."
So as to humanize Iranians, arrange to have a viewing of The Separation in your community. Anderlini has talked to NIAC about getting this Oscar-winning film out to people.
"There are many Iranians in your community. Forgive them for not speaking out. People are scared. People are very very scared. They need to find their voice. As I am finding my voice. Please encourage them to show these films and have a conversation about this issue."
Abdi on J Street and the political center:
J Street was critical to getting those 37 members to sign the Ellison-Jones letter. It is an "essential organization for occupying the political center and getting members of Congress who are so squeamish about taking a stand on anything. It’s very important that we have them. Every meeting that I have on the Hill, they ask, Who is supporting this? They want to know. Unfortunately, it can’t be groups who are seen as too far to the left. We need to have folks on the inside, and working at the center."
"It’s on Netanyahu’s agenda to get Obama unelected."
Hardline elements in Iran and Israel have the most to gain from a war with Iran. A keynote speaker at the American Enterprise Institute said, "'the greatest danger is not Iran using the bomb, but Iran not using the bomb.' It changes the whole regional picture in terms of Iran’s regional influence."
We’re not happy with the Ellison Jones letter because we oppose sanctions. But sanctions language was important to get 37 members of Congress to sign on to it. "The sanctions are already having a devastating impact in Iran. [Pete] Stark and [Dennis] Kucinich didn’t sign on to the letter because of sanctions.
"The fear in Israel isn’t an attack from Iran. The concern of the Israelis is that their maneuverability would be limited. They wouldn’t be able to act as they do with this nuclear umbrella.
"The Israeli fear is diplomacy with Iran and détente with Iran. That’s Netanyahu’s greatest fear."