FCNL and 25 Groups Tell House: Don't Sabotage Iran Diplomacy!

Dec 8, 2011

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While the anti-diplomacy provision was ultimately included in the Iran sanctions legislation that passed the House by a 410-11 vote, this letter demonstrated growing momentum against such efforts that impede a diplomatic resolution of the conflict between the U.S. and Iran.

December 8, 2011

Re: Prevent War with Iran, Don’t Sabotage Diplomacy: Oppose Sec. 601c of H.R. 1905

Dear Representative,

We urge you to oppose the provision restricting contact with Iranian officials in the Iran sanctions bill H.R. 1905 and to work with your colleagues to remove it from the bill when it comes to the House floor. We are concerned that Section 601c of this legislation would undermine prospects for a diplomatic resolution of Iran’s disputed nuclear program, increasing the threat of war.

This provision was inserted into the bill during committee markup, after most of the cosponsors had already signed onto H.R. 1905. Section 601c of H.R. 1905 would expressly prohibit contact between U.S. government officials and certain Iranian officials, as noted below:

(c) RESTRICTION ON CONTACT.—No person employed with the United States Government may contact in an official or unofficial capacity any person that— (1) is an agent, instrumentality, or official of, is affiliated with, or is serving as a representative of the Government of Iran; and (2) presents a threat to the United States or is affiliated with terrorist organizations. (d) WAIVER.—The President may waive the requirements of subsection (c) if the President determines and so reports to the appropriate congressional committees 15 days prior to the exercise of waiver authority that failure to exercise such waiver authority would pose an unusual and extraordinary threat to the vital national security interests of the United States.

If this provision were to be enacted into law, it could have a chilling effect on any diplomatic engagement that this or any future administration might wish to pursue to address Iran’s nuclear program, its role in exacerbating or de-escalating regional conflicts, and its failure to respect the human rights of its citizens. It would also place restrictions on members of Congress, likely precluding the potential for inter-parliamentary dialogue with Iranian parliamentarians.

As Ambassadors Thomas Pickering and William Luers have pointed out, this provision also raises “serious constitutional issues over the separation of powers”. For the administration to exercise its waiver authority, the President would have to certify 15 days in advance that the failure to do so would “pose an unusual and extraordinary threat to the vital national security interests of the United States”.

At a time of heightened tensions between the U.S. and Iran, sustained and flexible diplomacy is an essential tool to prevent war. Just before he retired from the position of Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mullen called for an established channel of communications with Iran, noting that: “We haven't had a connection with Iran since 1979. Even in the darkest days of the Cold War we had links to the Soviet Union…If something happens it's virtually assured that we won't get it right, that there will be miscalculations which would be extremely dangerous in that part of world...I think any channel would be terrific.”

We urge every member of Congress to oppose Section 601c of H.R. 1905 speak out on the House floor against efforts designed to constrain diplomatic engagement with Iran.

Sincerely,

Friends Committee on National Legislation
Americans for Peace Now
Arms Control Association
Center for Interfaith Engagement, Eastern Mennonite University
Church of the Brethren

Council for a Livable World
Fellowship of Reconciliation
Just Foreign Policy
Lancaster Interchurch Peace Witness
Mainstream Media Project
Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns
Mennonite Central Committee
Minnesota Peace Project
Middle East Peace Now
National Iranian American Council
New Internationalism Project, Institute for Policy Studies
Peace Action
Peace Action West
Peace Catalyst International
Progressive Democrats for America
Project on Middle East Democracy
Student Peace Alliance
United Church of Christ, Justice and Witness Ministries
United Methodist Church, General Board of Church and Society
Women's Action for New Directions
3P Human Security: Partners for Peacebuilding Policy

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