The Fellowship of Reconciliation is troubled by the increasingly hostile and militant posture of the United States towards Iran, including talk of pre-emptive military action. Once again, a country that has not attacked anyone is being threatened with attack, possibly involving nuclear weapons. As a rationale, the U.S. administration claims to possess proof that the Iranian government’s effort to acquire nuclear technology is in fact a plan to produce nuclear weapons.
The Fellowship of Reconciliation abhors all war, particularly a pre-emptive war with a manufactured rationale. The war against Iraq is such a war, and it has proven disastrous, wreaking destruction and misery on Iraq, causing the deaths of tens of thousands of Iraqis and nearly 2,400 U.S. troops, and leaving the Middle East more unstable and volatile than ever before.
It is not certain that Iran will escalate its nuclear program beyond its stated purpose of providing nuclear power (which in itself is an unfortunate choice in this 20th anniversary year of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster). Even if it wished to, most experts maintain that it will be 5 to 10 years before Iran could produce a nuclear weapon. But the U.S. administration would have us think otherwise – as it did about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.
Most major powers, including U.S. allies, rightly favor ongoing diplomacy to resolve the nuclear issue. This approach is in keeping with FOR’s faith-based commitment to nonviolent resolution of conflict, and should be applauded. Sadly, the U.S. administration seems to place precious little faith in diplomacy, as it demonstrated in the case of Iraq, with such appalling consequences. With such a credibility deficit, any reason offered to justify a pre-emptive war against Iran should be treated with the greatest skepticism.
As bad as the war on Iraq has been, attacking Iran would be even more disastrous. It would cause a new wave of anti-American sentiment among Muslims and more militant operations against U.S. targets worldwide. Iran plays a leadership role for over 120 million Shiite Muslims, who are scattered in various Middle Eastern countries and elsewhere. Attacking the home of Shiite Islam would only heighten religious violence.
As an organization committed to building ties with the people of Iran, the Fellowship of Reconciliation believes that the best way to support the Iranian people in their quest for full democracy and global participation is through empowering civil society, promoting cultural exchange, and listening respectfully to Iranian needs and expectations. Bullying and bombs will not promote the kind of mutual respect and global peace we all seek. The United States should drop its bellicose attitude and try a non-military approach, in which respect for the humanity of the people of both nations is upheld.
The Iranian government, for its part, could work to establish this trust by avoiding some of the unhelpful rhetoric that has recently emanated from Tehran. A more constructive and compassionate tone, one that reflects the spirit of tolerance, peaceful coexistence and regional friendship, would go a long way towards building trust internationally. Iran is an ancient nation with a rich history and diverse religious and ethnic culture. The political language from Tehran should highlight the generous spirit of this civilization, a spirit that a recent FOR delegation to Iran experienced so warmly.
In the final analysis, the United States remains the owner of the biggest stockpile of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons worldwide. As such, it has no moral authority to force other nations to eschew nuclear power for fear they might develop nuclear weapons of their own. The FOR believes all nations, including the United States, should move toward a safer world by getting rid of their arsenals of weapons of mass destruction. Only then will they have the moral right to encourage non-nuclear nations not to acquire them in the first place.