Reps. Dent, Price Lead Quarter of House to Bless Talks with New Iran President

If you've been worn down by too much bad news into thinking that nothing good can ever happen in Washington, here's proof that it ain't so: "the biggest ever pro-Iran diplomacy letter from the Hill."

JTA reports:

Days after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu dismissed the incoming Iranian president's plea for engagement with the United States and called for ratcheting up military pressure, a bipartisan letter circulating in the U.S. House of Representatives is urging President Obama to test Hassan Rohani's offer.

The letter, spearheaded by Reps. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.) and David Price (D-N.C.), had garnered 118 signatures by Thursday afternoon, more than a quarter of the House. The bulk of the signatories are Democrats, but 15 Republicans have signed on as well.

With 200 Democrats in the House, that means that the majority of House Democrats signed the letter.

Give your Rep a Nudge: Call Today to Support Rare Pro-Iran Diplomacy Initiative

Thank you to everyone who emailed their Representative in Congress concerning the Dent-Price letter supporting US-Iran diplomacy. The next step in pressuring your Representative to sign is to call their office. Could you call your Representative today and ask them to sign the Dent-Price letter supporting US-Iran engagement? Here's what you do:

  1. Call the Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121.
  2. Ask to be connected to your Representative's office.
  3. Once you are connected to your Rep's office, tell them your name and address.
  4. Tell your Representative's office to please sign the Dent-Price letter promoting a reinvigorated US effort to engage Iran following Hassan Rouhani's election as president. If your Representative is Charlie Dent or David Price, thank them for initiating the letter.
  5. Here are some additional statements you can use to back up your ask:
    1. Rouhani ran on a platform of engaging with the world and has promised to “pursue a policy of reconciliation and peace.”
    2. Rouhani's diplomatic credentials include being Iran's lead nuclear negotiator in 2003-5 when the country made progress in talks with the EU-3, temporarily suspended uranium enrichment, and voluntarily implemented the Additional Protocol.
    3. It would be a mistake not to test Rouhani's offer of engagement. If we ignore it, we send a message that the US will respond the same way no matter what happens in Iran, undermining reformists who want an easing of tensions and emboldening those who want confrontation.
    4. The Dent-Price letter does not take a position on whether sanctions should be ramped up or relaxed, nor does it take a position on the military option.
  6. When you're done with your call, report it here:

Thank you for all you do to help bring about a more just foreign policy,

Dent-Price Call-In: Report Your Call Here!

Report your call to your Representative concerning the Dent-Price letter here.

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An Important Opportunity to Support US-Iran Talks

The recent Iranian presidential election marks an important opportunity to promote US-Iran talks. Hassan Rouhani was selected in a decisive first-round vote. Rouhani ran on a platform of engaging with the world and has promised to “pursue a policy of reconciliation and peace,” saying that both the US and Iran “need to think more about the future and try to sit down and find solutions to past issues and rectify things.” [1] [2]

A bipartisan group of representatives led by Republican Charles Dent and Democrat David Price are seizing this opportunity by gathering signatures on a letter urging President Obama to reinvigorate US efforts to engage in diplomacy with Iran. Tell your Representative to sign on today.

Some in the media and Congress have been saying that Rouhani's election doesn't mean anything and that it shouldn't affect US engagement with Iran. While it remains to be seen whether Rouhani will be a boon to US-Iran relations, there are reasons to be optimistic. For one, President Ahmadinejad's rhetoric was often used as an excuse for US disengagement, so a change of guard deflates many anti-diplomacy arguments. And although the highest authority in Iran remains Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Rouhani's landslide victory over his "hardline" rivals-he garnered 51% of the electorate, compared to 17% for the runner-up, in one of the highest voter turnouts in an Iranian presidential election-is being seen by many as a mandate for a more moderate government perspective, both at home and abroad. [4] Ignoring the pro-diplomacy results of the election would undercut those in Iran who want a diplomatic solution and embolden those who want confrontation.

Dent-Price Letter Promoting US-Iran Talks

Below is a bipartisan congressional sign-on letter being organized by Reps. Charles Dent and David Price urging President Obama to reinvigorate US efforts to engage Iran following the election of Hassan Rouhani as president. Tell your Representative to sign.

July XX, 2013

Dear President Obama:

As Members of Congress who share your unequivocal commitment to preventing a nuclear-armed Iran, we urge you to pursue the potential opportunity presented by Iran's recent presidential election by reinvigorating U.S. efforts to secure a negotiated nuclear agreement.

As you know, on June 14 the Iranian people elected Hassan Rouhani president with over 50 percent of the vote in the first round, overcoming repression and intimidation by the Iranian government to cast their ballots in favor of reform. Dr. Rouhani campaigned on the promise to “pursue a policy of reconciliation and peace” and has since promised “constructive interaction with the outside world.” As Iran’s former lead nuclear negotiator, he has also publicly expressed the view that obtaining a nuclear weapon would run counter to Iran’s strategic interests and has been critical of the nuclear “extremism” of outgoing President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

We are mindful of the limitations of the Iranian presidency within the country’s political system, of the fact that previous Iranian presidents elected on platforms of moderation have failed to deliver on promised reforms, and of the mixed signals that Dr. Rouhani himself has sent regarding Iran’s nuclear ambitions. It remains to be seen whether his election will indeed bring significant change with regard to Iran's relations with the outside world. His government’s actions will certainly speak louder than his words.

Cessez le Feu! Don't Let France Kill the Syria Peace Talks

Usually when we write to you, it's the U.S. government that is blocking chances for diplomacy to prevent, contain, reduce and end violent conflict.

But this time it's different. This time, it's the French who appear to be standing in the way of peace!

The U.S. and Russia have agreed to host a peace conference to try to end the Syrian civil war. But France says it will oppose the peace conference if Iran is invited. C'est scandaleux!

For peace talks to have a chance to end the war, all the parties involved in the conflict have to be there. Excluding Iran would likely condemn the peace talks to failure, more Syrian civilians would die for no reason, and calls for direct US military intervention would increase.

Join us in telling Washington to explain to France that trying to exclude Iran from the Syria peace talks would be a major faux pas.

Last Friday, Reuters reported: [1]

“As far as we are concerned, not Iran," French Foreign Ministry spokesman Philippe Lalliot told reporters in Paris, discussing who should attend. "What's at stake is regional stability and we can't see how a country that represents a threat to this stability could attend this conference.”
The U.S., on the other hand, kept the possibility of Iran's participation open:

The United States said on Thursday that it was not ruling anyone in or out of the conference.
As Al-Monitor argued in a recent editorial, [2]

For the Geneva II conference on Syria to have the best chance of enacting a cease-fire and beginning a transition, Iran needs to be there.
It should be a no-brainer to have all parties to a conflict represented at a peace conference. There is no "transition" in Syria absent a cease-fire, and no cease-fire without Iran, which provides the military and intelligence lifeline to the Assad regime.

Iran is unlikely to agree to a deal where its interests and influence are not recognized in Syria.

Call Your Senators This Week And Tell Them: Don't Iraq Iran!

This week marks the tenth anniversary of the US invasion of Iraq. Yet, it seems that a majority of the Senate hasn't learned its lesson: S. Res. 65, AIPAC/Lindsey Graham's "backdoor to war" with Iran bill, now has 65 co-sponsors. [1] Even Senators who opposed the Iraq war, such as Sens. Boxer and Durbin, have signed on to the bill.

But allies are popping up in unexpected places. The New York Times recently came out in support of negotiations—and slammed S. Res. 65. [2]

We've defeated AIPAC before—and with enough pressure, we can do it again. Over 20,000 Just Foreign Policy members have emailed their Senators on S. Res. 65. But AIPAC supporters have been working hard as well. That's why we need to scale up our opposition.

This week, Just Foreign Policy is joining with the Friends Committee on National Legislation, the National Iranian American Council, and Peace Action West for a national call-in to the Senate opposing Graham's "backdoor to war" with Iran bill. Could you follow up your email with a phone call to your Senator? Here's what you do:

  1. Check to see if your Senator has co-sponsored the bill here:
  2. Call the Capital Switchboard using this toll-free number provided by FCNL: 1-855-68-NO WAR (1-855-686-6927)
  3. Ask to be connected to your Senator's office.
  4. When you are connected to your Senator's office:
    1. If your Senator hasn't co-sponsored the bill, thank them for staying off, and urge them to resist pressure to sign the bill, noting that the bill
      1. tries to "pre-approve" US participation in an Israeli attack on Iran; and
      2. tries to move up the "red line" for war

New York Times Calls Out AIPAC Warmongering, Slams Graham's S. Res. 65, House's H.R. 850

The New York Times editorial board has come a long way since its days of upholding the false dichotomy of sanctions versus war as the only options for US-Iran relations. It was less than two years ago that the Times published an editorial assessing the potential paths for addressing the US-Iran impasse—and completely neglected to mention diplomacy or negotiations.

But a Saturday editorial shows that the Times's vocabulary and outlook on the subject has since undergone a significant expansion:

If there is any hope for a peaceful resolution of the nuclear dispute with Iran, President Obama needs Congress to support negotiations. But negotiations and compromise are largely anathema in Washington, with many lawmakers insisting that any deal with Iran would be unacceptable — a stance that would make military action by Israel and the United States far more likely.

Not only did the editorial board recognize that "the best way to avert military conflict is by negotiating a credible, verifiable agreement," but it also slammed two new AIPAC-sponsored Congressional initiatives aimed at sabotaging negotiations. On Sens. Lindsay Graham and Robert Menendez's "backdoor to war" resolution, S. Res. 65, the Times wrote that

Call Your Senators on S. Res. 65!

Call your Senators today to express your opposition to S. Res. 65, the AIPAC/Lindsey Graham bill that tries to "pre-approve" US participation in an Israeli attack on Iran and tries to move the "red line" for war from "preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon" to "preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapons capability"—whatever that means.

Here's what you do:

  1. Check whether your Senator is a co-sponsor. Below is a list of current co-signers and the date that they co-signed:

    Sen Ayotte, Kelly [NH] - 2/28/2013
    Sen Barrasso, John [WY] - 3/6/2013
    Sen Baucus, Max [MT] - 3/5/2013
    Sen Begich, Mark [AK] - 2/28/2013
    Sen Bennet, Michael F. [CO] - 3/5/2013
    Sen Blumenthal, Richard [CT] - 2/28/2013
    Sen Blunt, Roy [MO] - 2/28/2013
    Sen Boozman, John [AR] - 3/5/2013
    Sen Boxer, Barbara [CA] - 2/28/2013
    Sen Brown, Sherrod [OH] - 2/28/2013
    Sen Burr, Richard [NC] - 3/5/2013
    Sen Cantwell, Maria [WA] - 3/18/2013
    Sen Cardin, Benjamin L. [MD] - 2/28/2013
    Sen Casey, Robert P., Jr. [PA] - 2/28/2013
    Sen Chambliss, Saxby [GA] - 3/5/2013
    Sen Coats, Daniel [IN] - 3/18/2013
    Sen Coburn, Tom [OK] - 3/12/2013
    Sen Cochran, Thad [MS] - 3/18/2013
    Sen Collins, Susan M. [ME] - 2/28/2013
    Sen Coons, Christopher A. [DE] - 3/6/2013
    Sen Cornyn, John [TX] - 2/28/2013
    Sen Crapo, Mike [ID] - 2/28/2013
    Sen Cruz, Ted [TX] - 3/5/2013
    Sen Donnelly, Joe [IN] - 3/5/2013
    Sen Durbin, Richard [IL] - 3/13/2013
    Sen Feinstein, Dianne [CA] - 3/12/2013
    Sen Fischer, Deb [NE] - 3/5/2013
    Sen Flake, Jeff [AZ] - 3/11/2013
    Sen Gillibrand, Kirsten E. [NY] - 2/28/2013
    Sen Grassley, Chuck [IA] - 3/5/2013
    Sen Hagan, Kay [NC] - 3/5/2013
    Sen Hatch, Orrin G. [UT] - 3/14/2013
    Sen Heitkamp, Heidi [ND] - 3/11/2013
    Sen Heller, Dean [NV] - 3/5/2013
    Sen Hirono, Mazie K. [HI] - 3/5/2013
    Sen Hoeven, John [ND] - 2/28/2013
    Sen Inhofe, James M. [OK] - 3/6/2013
    Sen Isakson, Johnny [GA] - 3/5/2013

Here Comes AIPAC, Lobbying For War

On Tuesday, after overcoming months of smears, hysterical rhetoric, and procedural obstruction, Chuck Hagel was confirmed as our next Secretary of Defense. We hope Secretary Hagel will help speed the withdrawal of our troops from Afghanistan, help avoid war with Iran, and help cut the Pentagon budget, as groups who supported his nomination expect.

But one thing is in the bag: we showed that in Congress we could beat the Likud Lobby—the group of people in Washington that drove the opposition to Hagel's nomination. [1] This faction says that "unless you adopt an unwavering pro-Likud approach to Israel that you're anti-Israel," as Barack Obama characterized their claims in 2008. [2]

Now the Likud Lobby is pressing the Senate to endorse an Israeli military attack on Iran. If the U.S. were to support such an attack, it would likely draw us into war.

If we could beat the Likud Lobby on Hagel, we can beat them on this.

Urge your Senators to oppose the AIPAC "backdoor to war" bill and to take steps towards peace with Iran and Palestine.

AIPAC is holding its annual policy conference next week, during which hundreds of pro-Likud activists will descend on Congress to push your representatives to support war with Iran and a continuation of the status-quo between Israel and Palestine. Here are three things you can ask your reps to do to promote peace instead:

  1. Urge your Senators to oppose the Graham bill endorsing an Israeli attack on Iran. Senator Lindsey Graham is introducing a bill that says that if Israel attacks Iran, the U.S. should support Israel militarily and diplomatically. [3] JTA reports that winning Congressional support for this bill will be a focus of AIPAC's policy conference next week. [4] Urge your Senators to oppose this bill and to insist that the language endorsing an Israeli attack on Iran be removed.