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The Quaker-U.S. Military Alliance on Iran (de facto, that is)

January 8, 2010

Once again there’s evidence that some of the sanest heads in Washington where Iran is concerned are at the Pentagon. They are undoubtedly not card-carrying Quakers but on the question of military action against Iran they appear to be fellow-travelers.

The latest evidence is from Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who said January 7 that any military strike on Iran would have “a very, very destabilizing outcome” with dangerous global consequences.

Mullen also said Iranian acquisition of nuclear weapons would be very destabilizing for the Middle East and affirmed the importance of continuing diplomatic efforts to prevent both a nuclear-armed Iran and a military attack on Iran:

One of the things that I think is so important is that we continue internationally, diplomatically, politically – not just ‘we’ the United States but the international community, continue to focus on this to prevent those two outcomes.

Adm. Mullen’s statement opposing war and supporting diplomacy was especially significant because it came in an address to the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, the think tank established by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).

House Folly/Greek Tragedy
We hope that Congress will listen to Adm. Mullen. House members, unfortunately, did not listen to wise advice offered at a recent House hearing on the Iran Refined Petroleum Sanctions Act, a bill that would attempt to prevent Iran from importing the gasoline that it depends on to meet 40% of its needs. The same day that witnesses told them not to, the House voted overwhelmingly to approve the bill.

If Woody Allen were directing the movie, the four panelists who told a House Oversight subcommittee that, in effect, the bill was the worst imaginable approach to Iran would have been the Greek chorus. While the chorus chanted its message of doom from the wings, the House, center stage, prompted by a strong lobby effort by AIPAC and its allies, voted 412 to 12 with 4 “present” votes to approve the bill.

The testimony of RAND Corporation analyst and former Ambassador James Dobbins was typical of the witnesses at the hearing chaired by Rep. John Tierney (MA). Dobbins argued that sanctions such as the gasoline embargo bill that “target Iranian society as a whole would promote the least desirable results, that is to say the consolidation of a police state under the Revolutionary Guard.” Dobbins said unilateral action by the U.S that included the imposition of sanctions on foreign companies “would seem to offer the worst combination of effects—penalizing the population, strengthening the regime, embroiling the United States in endless disputes with its allies and disrupting the current international solidarity in opposition to Iran’s nuclear aspirations.” (See witness’s prepared testimony here; see excerpts from the hearing here.)

Adm. Mullen’s statement and the witnesses at the Tierney hearing make clear that there is no lack of good advice in Washington on how to deal with Iran. The trick is getting the politicians, whose ears are often more receptive to a different pitch, to listen.

One Comment
  1. Robert Stewart permalink
    January 12, 2010 6:23 pm

    I continue to be impresed with Mike Mullen. He is a refreshing presence in the Pentagon along withSecretary Bob Gates. Coupled with Jim Jones as National Security Advisor we have the best team in the White House in my memory. This is particularly true in comparison to the Bush-Cheney-Rummy team. They are a non-ideological group that give every indication of willingness to listen to the Quaker Lobby. I simply hope that George Mitchell will be able to utilize them in his efforts to put the Israel-Palestinian problem on the long road to a peaceful solution.

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