Bipartisan bluster on IranBy Rachelle Lyndaker Schlabach Mennonite Central Committee
Few outside the halls of Congress and the Israeli Knesset are talking about military strikes against Iran. Many Americans are far more concerned about the economy and have no desire to see the United States involved in yet another war in the Middle East.
Many Israelis are equally skeptical of an Israeli attack against Iran. One Israeli couple made their views known by starting a Facebook page with photos of Israelis holding signs saying “Israel loves Iran,” making clear that they oppose military action. Iranians responded in kind, with a “We love you too” Facebook campaign.
But even without public support, the nations are raging (Psalm 2:1). Politicians’ rhetoric is all too similar to the run-up to the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003. The escalating cycle of the United States and its allies ratcheting up sanctions, followed by Iranian threats, could culminate in military action.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak describe a “window of opportunity” in which a military strike could set back Iran’s nuclear program, which they suspect is leading toward a nuclear weapon. Other Israeli leaders have pushed back against this assumption, including several former intelligence chiefs.
In March, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky called for legislation authorizing the use of U.S. military force against Iran. Both Republicans and Democrats in Congress seem to be falling over themselves to see who can look tougher on Iran.
Few talk about the consequences of military strikes. Despite the description of surgical strikes that would permanently disable Iran’s nuclear program while not causing any harm to civilians, experts point out that military action would be far from surgical in its impact. It would set back Iran’s program several years at best, likely trigger a strong reaction from Iran and further inflame a region already in turmoil.
On the other hand, diplomatic negotiations that take seriously the concerns and needs of all parties involved could dramatically de-escalate tensions. So far this year there have been several rounds of talks, which will need to continue if meaningful progress is to be achieved.
The U.S. and its allies want assurances, including verification by international inspectors, that Iran is not building a nuclear weapon. For its part, Iran wants to be respected as a regional power, including the ability as a signer of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty to develop nuclear power for civilian purposes.
In 2002 more than 17,000 Mennonites spoke out against war with Iraq. Ten years later, it is possible we could be on the cusp of yet another military action in the Middle East.
As Mennonites we must speak out clearly against the use of all military force. Even as we urge Iran not to develop a nuclear weapon, we must also speak out against the more than 5,000 nuclear weapons that our own country has stockpiled.
See washington.mcc.org for more information on how to support diplomacy, not war, with Iran.
Several thousand years ago the psalmist warned against the nations raging and urged them to tremble instead before the Lord. In the midst of today’s heated rhetoric, a bit more humility would be a good place to start.
Rachelle Lyndaker Schlabach directs the Mennonite Central Committee Washington Office.
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