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Archive for January 19, 2012

Iowans Press Harkin for Diplomacy with Iran

Delegation Meets with Harkin Staff

DES MOINES– Jeffrey Weiss of the Catholic Peace Ministry led a delegation of 16 Iowans representing nine organizations in a meeting with representatives of Senator Tom Harkin’s staff on Jan. 18 to request Harkin publicly promote diplomacy with Iran.

The request was delivered to Harkin’s staff in a climate of growing tensions between the U.S. and Iran, where public officials, including the current and former Secretaries of Defense, the former head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and other military and public officials from the United States and Iran, warn against the catastrophe of war.

“We are disappointed Senator Harkin would join the 100-0 vote on Jan. 4 to put sanctions on Iran that (some) liken to an act of war,” said Weiss.

He directed his comments to Tom Buttry, a member of Harkin’s Washington, D.C. staff, who spoke via teleconference; and Jule Reynolds, a staff person in the Des Moines office.

Weiss queried, “in fact, (the sanctions) bill was so bad the Obama Administration was opposed, even the U.S. Chamber of Commerce; ramping up tensions between two countries is more important to Democrats than the position their own President is taking?”

Dr. David Drake, of Physicians for Social Responsibility, presented a letter written by Iowa Physicians for Social Responsibility. Dr. Drake, who speaks on Iowa Public Radio about health issues, and has traveled to Iran, said two countries surrounding Iran, Israel and Pakistan, possess nuclear weapons and Iran might feel threatened. Physicians in his organization believe the U.S. should concentrate on healing the environment and the needs of humanity, instead of starting another war, he said.

Other organizations represented at the meeting included Iowans for Diplomacy with Iran, The Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF), The Strategic Arms Control PAC (STARPAC), The Methodist Federation for Social Action, the Plymouth Congregational Peace and Social Justice Committee, Veterans for Peace Chapter #163, the Des Moines Catholic Worker and the Quaker Friends Meeting.

Eloise Cranke noted segments of the Methodist Church considered war as incompatible with the Gospel of Jesus, and both Mark Rosenbury and Bob Brammer, long-time supporters of Harkin who have seen him do the right thing regarding Iran, asked him to do so in this crucial time.

Tom Buttry defended the Senator’s Jan. 4 vote, saying Harkin opposed war with Iran. The Iowa constituents said that is not enough.

“We are stuck between Republican presidential candidates calling for bombing Iran and Democrats who are more than ambivalent, but enabling,” Weiss countered. “We fear that a shooting war could take place without any formal declaration from either country and then, I guess, Harkin can deliver his statement of opposition.”
No matter what has taken place between the two parties for the past several decades (since the 1979 Islamic Revolution), Carolyn Uhlenhake-Walker of WILPF said that the time is now for diplomacy.

Retired Drake University Professor and author Ismael Hossein-Zadeh, a native of Iran, noted that sanctions would hurt the people of Iran and are not beneficial to U.S. commerce. This was a similar argument made by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in their opposition to sanctions voted on in the Senate on Jan. 4. Hossein-Zadeh said he had to apologize for his voice shaking but that this was dear to his heart because he cared about the people of both countries.

Buttry concluded the meeting by promising he would carry the messages to Senator Tom Harkin. The delegation asked for a letter in the newspaper, an amendment on a Defense Appropriations bill or another public venue asking for diplomacy with Iran.

Des Moines Mayor Frank Cownie, who was out of town, said he supported the delegation’s call for diplomacy.

~To learn more about Iowans for Diplomacy with Iran, contact Jeffrey Weiss via email here.