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Allow diplomacy to find peace

Speaker of the House John Boehner this week invited Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu to speak before a joint session of Congress Feb. 11, 2015. Netanyahu accepted without contacting the White House or State Department first as has been customary for foreign leaders addressing the U.S. congress.

The topic for Netanyahu’s presentation is to be Middle East unrest and the Iranian nuclear talks with the U.N. Security Council and Germany. The prime minister is seeking re-election in Israel and has long held an aggressive position towards Iran, once nearing a decision to conduct a pre-emptive attack to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear capabilities.

Netanyahu has also favored strong and increased sanctions against Iran, concluding that the Iranian participation in talks is a delaying tactic while the Iranians continue to develop a nuclear capacity.

Republicans seek to have a strong voice in the international talks by proposing resolutions that will be put before Congress to either add sanctions should the Iranians not reach agreement with the international community by the upcoming deadline, and/or pass legislation requiring the president to gain Senate approval for any agreement with Iran.

Diplomacy is not conducted in public or by individuals not engaged directly in the process typically because such sensitive conversations, from which compromises are reached, are best accomplished in smaller, private settings. Republicans hope by pressuring Iran with additional sanctions they will either cause the Iranians to agree to favorable terms or end the extended negotiations altogether. Prime Minister Netanyahu seems inclined to see the discussions ended and military action considered.

But among other problems with these actions is the intelligence community assessments that such actions, the threat of additional sanctions, may destroy any chance at a peaceful agreement with Iran. Both the U.S. intelligence community and the Israeli intelligence community, voiced by Mossad representatives, have expressed that additional sanctions or the threat of such sanctions will result in Iran withdrawing from the meetings entirely.

What then, if the coalition of nations dissolves as a result of U.S. congressional actions and Iran withdraws from the talks? One possibility is war with Iran. Another is attack by Israel with the expectation that the U.S. support Israel and is, as a result, drawn into yet another Middle East war, this time with a major military power in Iran.

A recent ABC News/Washington Post poll indicates 84 percent of Americans believe the US should continue diplomatic talks with Iran. The same poll reports a slim majority (53 percent) of Americans oppose a U.S. military response against Iran. 51 percent of Americans oppose Israel bombing sites with Iran that may be used to develop nuclear capacity.

Three recent Israeli polls indicate, two by majority, one by plurality, that Israel should not attack Iran without U.S. support.

But gaining US support by ignoring the White House, the State Department, the coalition that includes France, China, Germany, Russia and Great Britain and the United States, and the Intelligence communities of the U.S. and Israel, seems an unlikely path to success.

In case Israel’s leader has not gotten the memo, the U.S. is not seeking yet another Middle East war. And in case our Republican friends are not aware, Sens. McCain and Graham, the “bomb, bomb, bomb” brothers do not represent the convictions of the people of the United States.

There is still time for the Republican Congress to step back from this dangerous path and allow diplomacy to find a chance for peace by the skills of those actually engaged in the process.

Or, there is the outcome that comes from bulls in China shops, everything gets broken and nothing is accomplished.

 

Jim Crawford is a retired educator and political enthusiast living here in the Tri-State.