New Iran sanctions bill could be misconstrued as act of war

 In Action Alert, Iran

A new Iran sanctions bill in the House, H Con Res 362, has a clause that could be interpreted as calling for a naval blockade, which would be an act of war. While the resolution states that nothing in it “shall be construed as an authorization of the use of force against Iran,” it goes on to call on the President to “impose stringent inspection requirements on all persons, vehicles, ships, planes, trains, and cargo entering or departing Iran.” The resolution also “prohibits the export to Iran of all refined petroleum products.”

Introduced on May 22, the resolution is gaining steam quickly and currently has 169 cosponsors. Click here to see if your representative is a cosponsor. Click here to contact your representative and urge him or her not to support H Con Res 362. Punitive sanctions alone have done little to encourage Iran to change its behavior thus far. If members of Congress are concerned about Iran acquiring nuclear weapons, they must be willing to a fresh approach, such as direct, unconditional negotiations.

Speaking of Iran, I wanted to point out traveler Rick Steves’ blog about his recent ten day trip to Iran. His blog offers a glimpse into what life in Iran is like for those of us who have never visited. In the US, we often hear about Iran’s president or its nuclear program, but rarely hear about the lives of everyday Iranians. Steves’ pre-trip post in mid-May talks about what made him decide to visit Iran:

A friend from the Washington State chapter of the United Nations Association called me six months ago and asked what I could do to help them build understanding between Iran and the US, and to defuse the tension that could be leading to war. I answered, “The only powerful thing I could do would be to produce a TV show on Iran.”

I remember when the bombs first fell on Baghdad, thinking I’d missed an opportunity to make a travel show that could humanize Baghdad and give “collateral damage” a face. I didn’t want to miss an opportunity to do this for Iran. My government would let me go. The Islamic Republic of Iran actually wanted the publicity. I threw together a proposal for a TV show — no politics, just travel. The working title: Iran: Its People and Culture, Yesterday and Today.

In one of his final posts following a trip to the Esfahan cemetery and the many positive interactions he had with the people of Iran, Steves concludes:

And yet, no matter how strongly we want to see our beliefs and values prevail in Iran, we need to understand the 70 million people who live here. What if the saber-rattling coming out of Washington (and the campaign trail) doesn’t coerce this country into compliance? In the past, other powerful nations have underestimated Iran’s willingness to be pulverized in a war…and both Iran and their enemies have paid the price.

In the coming months and years, I believe smart and determined diplomacy can keep the Iranians — and us — from having to build giant new cemeteries for the next generation’s war dead. That doesn’t mean "giving in" to Iran…it means war is a failure and we need to find an alternative. If this all sounds too idealistic, or even naive…try coming to Iran and meeting these people face-to-face.

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