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House Democrats plan hearings, write Bush on Iran strike

RAW STORY
Published: Wednesday May 24, 2006

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As concerns build over increased tensions between the United States and Iran, some Democrats in Congress are beginning to mount opposition to a preemptive nuclear strike, RAW STORY has learned.

Members of the House Democrats' Progressive Caucus are holding unofficial hearings and gathering signatures for a letter to President Bush, in hopes, they say, of attenuating the risk of nuclear confrontation.

The first unofficial meeting of Congress on the subject of a possible war with Iran is set to take place later this afternoon in the U.S. Capitol. At 3:00 pm, a group of Democratic Representatives plan to hold a hearing probing the question: "Would war with Iran help or hurt U.S. national security?"

Testifying before lawmakers will be Samantha Power, Former Executive Director of the Carr Center for Human Rights at Harvard University, and Dr. Jessica Tuchman Matthews, President of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Both speakers are also authors of books relating to U.S. foreign policy.

The 62-member caucus, co-chaired by Reps. Barbara Lee (D-CA) and Lynn Woolsey (D-CA), plans to continue holding ad hoc hearings and public forums to examine the potential effects of a war with Iran. Also on the table will be the broader question of preemptive warfare as a national security strategy.

Representatives Peter DeFazio (D-OR) and Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) are also reportedly taking part in the proceedings.

"War with Iran is not inevitable if the United States is ready to lead the way with honest, patient negotiations," Kucinich said yesterday on the House floor, "However, this Administration seems intent on war."

Toning down the debate

Meanwhile, caucus member Ed Markey (D-MA) is gathering signatures for a letter to President Bush, asking for a change in rhetoric on the subject of Iran.

Markey's letter raises concern about remarks made by Bush on April 18, indicating he might be willing to launch a nuclear strike on the nation. If done before Iran obtained nuclear weapons, this would be in violation of a pledge made in a 1995 U.S. statement, and U.S. commitments to the U.N Security Council.

The Congressman is asking President Bush to make it clear that the U.S. does not currently intend to launch a preemptive nuclear strike on Iran.

The letter

Markey's letter to Bush, for which he hopes to gather co-signers, follows:


May __, 2006
The Honorable George W. Bush
President
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20500

Dear Mr. President:

We are writing to express our concerns about your recent suggestion that the U.S. would potentially launch a pre-emptive nuclear attack against Iran. As you will recall, on April 18, 2006, you were asked "Sir, when you talk about Iran and you talk about how you have diplomatic efforts, you also say all options are on the table. Does that include the possibility of a nuclear strike?" Your response to this question was "All options are on the table."

While we share your concern about Iran's irresponsible violations of its commitments under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) and safeguards agreement which Iran signed with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), we do not believe that the U.S. should threaten to use nuclear weapons to resolve this crisis. We would also note that as the U.S. seeks to ensure strict Iranian compliance with its obligations under the NPT, we should keep in mind the fact that in connection with the 1995 NPT review conference, the United States issued a statement reaffirming earlier U.N. Security Council pledges that the U.S. "will not use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear-weapon States Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons except in the case of an invasion or any other attack on the United States, its territories, its armed forces or other troops, its allies, or on a State towards which it has a security commitment, carried out or sustained by such a non-nuclear-weapon State in association or alliance with a nuclear-weapon State." We are not aware of any subsequent statements changing this position.

Global security will be greatly threatened if Iran develops nuclear weapons. However, a U.S. pre-emptive nuclear strike on Iran would likely have catastrophic consequences that counter U.S. security objectives - both in the Middle East and around the world. We therefore urge you to make it clear that the U.S. is not actively considering first use of nuclear weapons against Iran in response to its efforts to obtain uranium enrichment capabilities. We understand that in a crisis, many options - including military options -- must be carefully considered. But we believe there is still time for diplomacy and targeted sanctions to work and we urge you to focus your Administration's efforts on seeking a peaceful resolution of this crisis.

                                             Sincerely,