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The world has fundamentally changed since August 21. It's time for a fundamental change in U.S. policy towards Syria and Iran.

We were told by the government of Israel, the government of Saudi Arabia, and the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee that it was absolutely essential that the United States strike Syria militarily to send a signal to Iran that the U.S. was willing to use force to confront Iran's nuclear program.

Congress and the American people have decisively rejected this argument.

As the New York Times noted following the President's speech in which he postponed indefinitely his push for Congressional authorization of a military strike in favor of diplomacy, the Obama Administration faced "implacable opposition to a strike in Syria in Congress and throughout the country"; a vote authorizing military action "was almost certain to lose" as "opposition to a strike was hardening" on Capitol Hill.

Those who set out to establish a precedent for a U.S. military attack on Iran got an unpleasant surprise: a set of precedents making a U.S. attack on Iran more difficult were established instead. This President or any other would have to come to Congress for authorization to strike Iran, as required by the U.S. Constitution and the War Powers Resolution, and Congressional approval would be far from guaranteed. If this President or a future President tries to claim that he or she has the unilateral power to strike Iran without Congressional approval, we now know what we need to do to stop that. We need to get a bipartisan group of 192 Members of the House to tell the President, "the hell you do."

Congress and the American people did something unprecedented in our time: they stopped a war before it started by creating a near-certainty of Congressional rejection. The knowledge that this is possible can never be removed from public consciousness. It would take a McCarthyite purge of the institutions to do so, and such a purge is no longer possible, because opposition to the promiscuous use of military force has become too politically diverse. People can get on their soapboxes all day long about Citizens United, the military-industrial complex, and AIPAC. Despite these obstacles, democracy stopped a war.

Since the proposal to send "a signal of American resolve" to Iran by bombing Syria has spectacularly failed, it's time for a fundamental shift in U.S. policy.

If we can talk to Russia about securing and destroying Syria's chemical weapons stocks, we can talk to Iran about securing and destroying Syria's chemical weapons stocks. Iran not only has a new President, but an entirely new crew of pragmatic, experienced, top diplomatic officials. No country on earth hates chemical weapons more than Iran. Could there be a better time to talk to Iran than when 1) Iran has just elected a new President who campaigned on a platform of engagement with the West and 2) AIPAC has just suffered a spectacular legislative defeat on the authorization of force?

If we can talk to Russia and Iran about securing and destroying Syria's chemical weapons stocks, we can talk to Russia and Iran about securing a ceasefire and negotiations to end Syria's civil war. Yes, ending Syria's civil war will be hard. Securing and destroying Syria's chemical weapons stocks will be hard. But neither of these goals will be accomplished or brought closer by the use of military force. Diplomacy and negotiations can accomplish these goals, and even if they don't accomplish these goals right away, diplomacy and negotiations will de-escalate the conflict and reduce the killing on the path to eliminating Syria's chemical weapons and ending the war.

If we can talk to Russia and Iran about securing and destroying Syria's chemical weapons stocks and about securing a ceasefire and negotiations to end Syria's civil war, we can talk to Russia and Iran about a deal on Iran's nuclear program that establishes détente between the U.S. and Iran.

Our too-close relationships to the governments of Israel and Saudi Arabia and our lack of any relationship to the government of Iran are bringing us no end of trouble. Because we are too close to the government of Saudi Arabia, we didn't stop the crackdown on democracy activists in Bahrain. Because we are too close to the governments of Israel and Saudi Arabia, we didn't stop the military coup in Egypt and the subsequent massacres of anti-coup protesters. Because we are too close to the government of Saudi Arabia, we didn't stop them from pouring jihadists into Syria who commit atrocities. Because we don't have a relationship with the government of Iran, we haven't been able to leverage their influence to restrain the Syrian government from committing atrocities. Because we are too close to the government of Israel, we can't effectively pressure it to end its abuses of Palestinian civilians in the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem.

It's time to reset our relationships in the Middle East. We need to be able to relate to everyone, while being beholden to no-one.

There has never been a better time for real engagement with Iran, and an opportunity like the present may not come again. This is the moment we elected Barack Obama for in 2008. If not now, when?

If you agree, tell President Obama and Congress.

Robert Naiman is Policy Director at Just Foreign Policy.

Poll

Syria: Ceasefire. Negotiations. Talk to Iran.

96%212 votes
3%7 votes

| 219 votes | Vote | Results

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Comment Preferences

  •  Agree. Iran has been sending clear (9+ / 0-)

    signals of a willingness to ease tensions.  I hope the administration is willing to engage them, and not react with knee-jerk anti-Iraniasm.

    "When dealing with terrorism, civil and human rights are not applicable." Egyptian military spokesman.

    by Paleo on Wed Sep 11, 2013 at 05:53:52 AM PDT

    •  Iran has been sending signals relating (0+ / 0-)

      to its nuclear program for many years. However, it's probably premature to think that wars on Syria and Iran have been stopped. It may be more that they have been delayed until a new cycle of pro-war propaganda is reorganized to launch the next war.

      We still have a greedy MIC that seems to recycled it's weapons every decade, and with 300 pro-war AIPAC members invading congress, plus our war-loving extremist racist and bigots, we should not put our anti-war efforts in moth balls.

      We have, by far,  the most costly military machine in the world, and we also lead every country, again by far, in the sales of weapons of war. This needs to change if we expect peace in our world.

      War is costly. Peace is priceless!

      by frostbite on Fri Sep 13, 2013 at 03:18:34 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  If Syria disarms, will be due to NOT using force (4+ / 0-)

    The line in Washington seems to be that Syria agreed to be bound by the Chemical Weapons convention because of a credible threat of force.

    My impression is that that conventional wisdom is exactly wrong: they agreed to disarm because the US had no credible threat of military force. While the US is wallowing in the moral swamp of threatening to commit (once again) what Justice Robert Jackson called "the supreme crime": aggressive war, Syria and Russia have--entirely improbably-- seized the high ground. The US is now more isolated than ever, reacting to events rather than shaping them.  

    Chemical weapons are largely useless. Difficult to control, subject to degradation, and far less effective in killing people than explosives, they have no real military value. But having the hypocritical strategy of the US exposed is of considerable military value. I would not be surprised if the real price of surrendering the chemical weapons is ending the role of the Gulf States in arming the rebels.

    •  Disarm because US is not threat? (0+ / 0-)

      This is not Bashar Hafez al-Assad's history or father's history, who was also a murderous ruler.  Wishful thinking, but it's far from the truth.  He has never backed down from kind and gentle approaches.   Bashar al-Assad has become a worse megalomaniac than his father.  Experts around the world say what Assad fears most is his own assassination.  High-level defections from his government are occurring daily for their fear of our attack.

      •  I don't think it's wishful thinking, Dan (0+ / 0-)

        Everyone knows that the US can bomb countries. We've attacked a country on average every other year for the last century. That doesn't count coups, assassinations, etc. Everyone knows the US is a violent country that refuses to obey international law. So, it's not like the US is ever not a threat.

        What's different here is that Assad sees that he can separate world opinion--and therefore any possible assistance-- from the US by agreeing to divest himself of chemical weapons (which are, as I said, largely useless).

        Disarming any potential alliance by agreeing to let go a chit that has no value? That's a tremendous military coup for Assad.  

        You seem to imagine that the people on the other side of the debate--like, say, me-- have some airy-fairy hippy-dippy view of the world. The truth is that people like me are the hard-nosed realists who know how the military option works--and doesn't work-- within a larger portfolio of other forms of power. It's the people who don't know anything but military power who are the unrealists.  

    •  There are probably two reason for this (0+ / 0-)

      Peace breakout. The people of the US demanded that there needs to be a debate in congress. As a consequence the votes for Obama's war were not there in the House. Secondly, Putin laid down the law to Assad. He understood that a US attack on Syria would have a negative impact on the entire world. Assad was in no position to not comply with Putin's demands.

      War is costly. Peace is priceless!

      by frostbite on Fri Sep 13, 2013 at 03:27:46 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Hmmmmm (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Euroliberal, corvo, DSPS owl
    We were told by the government of Israel, the government of Saudi Arabia, and the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee that it was absolutely essential that the United States strike Syria militarily to send a signal to Iran that the U.S. was willing to use force to confront Iran's nuclear program.
    Your forgot the U.S. President and Secretary of State.

    Dammit Jim, I'm a lawyer, not a grammarian. So sue me.

    by Pi Li on Wed Sep 11, 2013 at 06:00:45 AM PDT

    •  I didn't forget them (5+ / 0-)

      I decided not to list them. Everyone knows what Obama and Kerry said. What I want to call attention to is who the external actors who were pushing this line: Israel and Saudi Arabia. For too long, Israel and Saudi Arabia have had too much influence over U.S. policy in the Middle East. It's time to change that.

      •  Common sense. Profoundly. (0+ / 0-)
        We need to be able to relate to everyone, while being beholden to no-one.
        Looks like there is a chance for that now.  A slim one.  Yes, "it's time for a fundamental shift in U.S. policy."  We'd better not stop working for just that.  Thanks for the diary and the petition!

        The Republicans are defunding, not defending, America.

        by DSPS owl on Wed Sep 11, 2013 at 10:59:36 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Wow, appreciate the optimism. (4+ / 0-)

    OTOH, Iran is exactly why they can't let a deal go through regarding Syria's chemical weapons.  It does set a precedent and it will make it much more difficult to go after Iran.  What I got from Obama's speech was that war plans are still firmly on the table.  If they insist at the UN in naming Assad as the guilty party for the Aug 21st chemical attack like Obama continued to state last night, Russia and Syria will not agree.  And that might be the plan, there are strong forces that want an attack and want regime change.  And Iran is the key, I can't see them giving up their dream just yet.  

  •  You seem to be doing a bit of history rewrite (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Justanothernyer, JNEREBEL

    here. The reason why we are in talks with Russia and Syria at this juncture is not because the Russians and the Syrians were euphoric by Congressional opposition to a US strike on Syria, but rather because they felt that the President might launch an attack on Syria.

    Secondly, the President has always preferred diplomacy over military solutions. He was the one who declared that he would hold talks with Iran and other so-called enemies of the United States, to the utter outrage of every single Presidential candidate who sought the Presidency in 2008.

    I do believe diplomacy should take precedence over any other consideration when solving world issues, but, let's be clear on one thing, the US government has been thwarted in its diplomatic efforts with Syria for more than two years, primarily by Russia through its veto power at the UN, it was not until the President announced that he would strike at Syria for its use of chemical weapons against its people that the Russians and the Syrians, mindful that a strike might hurt Asaad's chances in his two plus years civil war, that they decide to come to the table.

    Yes, by all means, we should use diplomacy as the first order of business in any international conflict, but let us be honest as to what really happened here as it relates to Russia and Syria.... No rewriting of history.

    •  we'll have to agree to disagree about this (4+ / 0-)

      If there had been no public outcry, if Congress hadn't insisted on debate and approval, if the authorization for war hadn't failed to get a majority in Congress, we wouldn't be at the juncture. The bombing would have already happened two weeks ago. There would have been no opening for Russian or UN diplomacy before a US attack, because a US attack would have happened before any diplomacy had a chance to get off the ground.

      •  Then to use your supposition, it means then that (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Justanothernyer, JNEREBEL

        (taking the threat of a US attack out of the equation)

        Russia and Syria came to the table to discuss Syria giving up it's chemical weapons when reports surfaced that Syria attacked its own people around August 21. In actuality, there are reports that they attacked their own people going back in June. So, they probably came to the table then.

        Or I guess, they decided to come to the table when they heard that nobody will attack them.....

        I understand quite well.... Sure, we'll agree to disagree.

        •  actually (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          cotterperson

          I personally would not claim that the threat of force had no role. The threat of force can be extremely effective at getting people's attention, and it did so in this case.

          However, you wrote:

          "The reason why we are in talks with Russia and Syria at this juncture is not because the Russians and the Syrians were euphoric by Congressional opposition to a US strike on Syria, but rather because they felt that the President might launch an attack on Syria."

          And that's not telling the whole truth. There are multiple reasons why we're in talks. One, the August 21 incident was apparently far greater in magnitude than any previous incident, and at the very least, it calls into question the Syrian government's ability to control its chemical weapons stocks or control its forces use of them. Two, there was a U.S. threat of force. But three, there was widespread opposition to that threat, including in the public and Congress, and that created an opening for diplomacy.

          If the U.S. threatens to use force no matter what, or makes unrealistic demands as conditions for not using force, that's not going to help a diplomatic solution. It's the possibility that U.S. policy could realistically change if others' policies realistically change and conversely that creates an opening for diplomacy.

  •  Russia and Iran (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Robert Naiman, cotterperson

    Rouhani goes to meet Putin in Russia Friday.  

  •  Expect Russia and Iran (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Robert Naiman, cotterperson, DSPS owl

    to pressure US on Israel's non participation in CWC and NPT and push for a regional WMD protocol.

  •  New Hope in the Syrian Civil War (0+ / 0-)

    Mr. Robert Naiman (The Daily KOS):

    I received your Moveonorg petition, but I have not yet signed it because it lacks a necessary prong in its beseechment for diplomacy.

    A mandatory component of the upcoming diplomatic negotiations MUST include resolution of the massive humanitarian refugee disaster caused by the Syrian CIvil Wars:  3 million people and growing with over 800,000 displaced across the Syrian borders. This alone is an atrocity.

    Regarding this article:

    With newly elected President Hassan Rouhani bringing what appears to be moderation to the policies and government of Iran, the almost certain intransigent refusal by 9 members of the United Nations Security Council to agree that force of any kind in Syria should be used, we must seize upon every opportunity for for diplomacy Syria and with Iran.  

    The problem with all this is distrust of Syria and Russia. To quote what Michael Smerconish stated on Andrea Mitchell Reports a few moments ago, aside from North Korea's Kim Jong Un,

    "I cannot think of any two more untrustworthy world leaders on the planet that Vladimir Putin and Bashar Hafez al-Assad"
    , and I agree with Smerconish completely.  Putin's sole purpose for the Russian people is to keep the U.S. as destabilized as possible by Russia's support for unstable, anti-West dictators. The trustworthiness verdict is still out for President Rouhani.

    Let's talk to Russia and Iran, but let's not trust them... talk is cheap, but outcomes cost a lot more. The U.N. must be involved in whatever resolution.

    A bizarrely ironic scenario, but in my view a very welcome one, is that we have to place our trust in those governments with whom we have had the least trust in many years: Iran, Russia and Syria.  -Dan Lovingood

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